When Having 'Been There' Doesn't Mean I Care: When Prior Experience Reduces Compassion for Emotional Distress
Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Forthcoming
47 Pages Posted: 4 Dec 2014 Last revised: 13 Feb 2015
Date Written: December 3, 2014
For those who are struggling with a difficult experience and who seek the support of others, it is a common assumption that others who have been through the experience in the past will be more understanding. To the contrary, the current research found that participants who had previously endured an emotionally distressing event (e.g., bullying, unemployment) more harshly evaluated another person's failure to endure a similar distressing event compared to participants with no experience enduring the event. These effects emerged for three naturally occurring distressing events, as well as one experimentally-induced distressing event. The effect was driven by the tendency for those who previously endured the distressing event to view the event as less difficult to overcome. Taken together, the paper's findings present a paradox such that, in the face of struggle or defeat, the people we are most apt to seek for advice or comfort may be the least likely to provide it.
Keywords: affect, social judgment, hot-cold empathy gap, life events, compassion
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