Imagined empathy and anger intensity: Distinct emotional implications of perceiving that a close versus distant other is privy to an anger-inducing experience.

Citation metadata

Date: Mar. 2022
Publisher: Elsevier B.V.
Document Type: Report; Brief article
Length: 373 words

Document controls

Main content

Abstract :

Keywords Imagined empathy; Anger; Aggression; Psychological closeness; Social influence Highlights * Perceiving that a close other has witnessed an anger-inducing event increases anger. * Perceiving that a distant other has witnessed an anger-inducing event reduces anger. * These effects arise even if the other does not actually exist or know what happened. * Parallel effects are evident on aggressive inclinations toward perpetrators. * Imagined empathy is an intrapersonal pathway for social influence on affect intensity. Abstract Simply as a function of being there to witness an anger-inducing event, hearing about it afterwards, or being on the receiving end of a text, email, or online post about it, can another person change individuals' affective and behavioral reactions to what happened? The present research tested the hypothesis that whereas perceiving a psychologically close other as witness to what happened intensifies individuals' angry reactions, perceiving a psychologically distant other such as an outgroup member as witness instead has an attenuating effect. We further tested a purely intrapersonal pathway through which these effects might arise, one that centers on the distinct levels of empathy that individuals imagine that close versus distant others feel for them. Results of five experiments were broadly consistent with predictions. These results were obtained across operationalizations of psychological closeness in terms of personality and values similarity (Experiments 1 and 2), demographic similarity (Experiments 3 and 4), and type of relationship (Experiment 5), across highly impactful recalled anger-inducing experiences (Experiments 1 to 4) and a minor event staged in the lab (Experiment 5), and across ostensible witnesses encountered in online exchanges (Experiments 1 to 4) and real witnesses who were physically present as observers (Experiment 5). Taken together, the findings point to the possibility of individuals creating "echo chambers" all by themselves that do not depend on any actual external validation or support and also suggest that outgroup audiences may sometimes have affective implications that parallel those stimulated by adopting a distanced perspective on the self. Author Affiliation: University of Manitoba, Canada * Corresponding author at: Department of Psychology, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, Manitoba R3T 2N2, Canada. Article History: Received 8 January 2021; Revised 13 December 2021; Accepted 20 December 2021 (miscellaneous) Editor: Dr. Lasana Harris Byline: Jacquie D. Vorauer [Jacquie.Vorauer@umanitoba.ca] (*), Corey Petsnik

Source Citation

Source Citation   

Gale Document Number: GALE|A690060610