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The lab report “Effect of Value on Empathy and Prosocial Behavior” aims to examine the effect that value attributed to an ostracized target has on the experience of empathy for that individual and on the prosocial behavior shown. One area of Social Psychology deals with the way people respond to distress experienced by others, and the probability helping those who need assistance. Recognizing and responding to the distress of others forms an important foundation for human relationships and the ability to do so is called Empathy. Hoffman calls it ‘a compassionate response that may be more appropriate to another individual’s situation than to one’s own’. When experiencing empathy, people are able to recognize experiences of others and provide emotional responses that mirror those of the person observed. Empathy is experienced through feelings like compassion, sympathy, concern, and tenderness.
Empathy also helps the development of meaningful social relationships since it allows people to believe that they share/understand emotional experiences. People with impairment in experiencing empathy may suffer socially and cognitively. An individual experiences empathy for others as a function of one or more factors. These factors include shared similarities in features or experiences, how emotional the target person seems and the extent to which one feels that they are vulnerable to harm / in genuine need of help. The amount of attention they pay is also positively related the likelihood of perceiving a need for help. (Gu &. Han, 2007). Another factor that increases empathy is observing someone experience ostracism (Williams, Cheung &. Choi, 2000). Williams discusses the ill-effects of ostracism including negative mood and lowered self-esteem, meaningfulness, and experience of control and belonging. Zadro, Williams and Richardson (2004) have identified that humans are very sensitive to ostracism, and experience it even in a simulated situation. Since most people have experienced ostracism and isolation at some point, they are able to identify with another person who is being ostracised (Batson, Lishner, Cook &. Sawyer, 2005). Batson, Eklund, Chermok, Hoyt and Ortiz (2007) found that making positive attributions to a person in need, increased empathy as compared to when negative attributions are made. They also found that the people were more willing to help someone considered nice as compared to one who was considered nasty. Also, people were likely to identify with the experience of ostracism of a nice person even when not asked to do so. On the other hand, participants were less likely to identify with the nasty person. but when asked to do so, more people felt empathy towards that person than when they were neutral (Batson, et al., 2007). One of the main paths by which empathy influences social interaction is that of prosocial behavior. Prosocial behavior is performed with the objective of helping another person and occurs when an individual feels empathy towards someone in need (Batson, Sympson, Hindman, Decruz, Matthew-Todd, Weeks, Jennings &. Burns, 1991). Baston et al. (1991) have described this phenomenon as the empathy – altruism hypothesis indicating that the experience of empathy provides the motivation necessary for performing an altruistic or prosocial act.