The Social Causes and Political Consequences of Group Empathy

40 Pages Posted: 25 Aug 2014

Date Written: 2014


Recent scholarship has discovered significant racial group variation in response to political threats such as immigration and terrorism. Surprisingly, groups who perceive themselves to be at greater risk from such threats nonetheless prefer more open immigration policies and are less likely to want to trade individual civil liberties for national security. In our previous work, we posit a group-level empathy process might explain these different reactions to threats. Little remains known, however, about the unique properties, both causes and consequences, of group-level empathy. In this paper, we first examine the reliability and validity of a measure of group empathy, and demonstrate that it is distinct from other social and political predispositions such as ethnocentrism, social dominance orientation, authoritarianism, and partisanship. We then propose and test a theory about the development of group empathy based on demographic circumstances and the life experiences they produce. Finally, we examine the power of group empathy to predict policy attitudes and behavior related to immigration and terrorism beyond the other group predispositions. We conclude with a discussion of the political implications of empathy more broadly, especially in terms of the intensifying debates about immigration and terrorism policy.

Suggested Citation

Valentino, Nicholas A. and Villalobos, Jose and Sirin, Cigdem, The Social Causes and Political Consequences of Group Empathy (2014). APSA 2014 Annual Meeting Paper, Available at SSRN:

Jose Villalobos

University of Texas at El Paso ( email )

500 West University
El Paso, TX TX 79968-0545
United States

Cigdem Sirin

Independent ( email )

Do you have a job opening that you would like to promote on SSRN?

Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics