The Role of Empathy in Improving Intergroup Relations

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Abstract

This article analyzes the role that empathy can play in improving intergroup relations. Three types of empathy are defined: cognitive empathy and twotypes of emotional empathy, reactive and parallel. Research indicating that empathy causes prosocial behavior is reviewed, along with studies indicating that training can be used to increase levels of empathic skills. Intergroup relations programs that employ empathy are also reviewed. Studies of the effects of empathizing with outgroup members on prejudice are discussed, andseveral processes by which empathy may mediate changes in prejudice are presented (e.g., reducing perceived dissimilarity and anxiety concerning the outgroup) and cognitive dissonance. The ways in which empathy can be introduced into intergroup relations programs are discussed, along with a series of recommendations for its implementation.

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