The empathy-altruism association and its relevance to health care professions

Derek J. Burks1, Lorraine K. Youll2, Jayson P. Durtschi3
1University of Central Oklahoma, United States
2Department of Psychology, University of Central Oklahoma, United States
3Department of Biology, Portland Community College, United States
Cite this article:  Burks, D. J., Youll, L. K., & Durtschi, J. P. (2012). The empathy-altruism association and its relevance to health care professions. Social Behavior and Personality: An international journal, 40(3), 395-400.

Volume 40 Issue 3 | e2500 | Published: April 2012 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.2224/sbp.2012.40.3.395

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It is posited in the empathy-altruism hypothesis that altruistic motivation evoked by empathy is directed toward the ultimate goal of improving another person’s welfare. In this study the empathy-altruism hypothesis was examined. Measures of altruism, empathy, and social desirability were completed by 112 individuals in a university setting. A positive andsignificant association was found between altruism and empathy (rs = .24, p = .01, 95% CI[.06-.41]). No significant associations were found between social desirability and altruismor between social desirability and empathy. Because the loss of capacity to feel empathymay lead to burnout, disillusionment, and reduced altruistic helping efforts, the clinicalapplicability and implications of these findings are particularly important to health care andother helping professions.

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