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.
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