Social categorization and empathy for outgroup members


Correspondence should be addressed to Mark Tarrant, School of Psychology, Keele University, Keele, Staffordshire, ST5 5NA UK (e-mail:


Three experiments (N =370) investigated the effects of social categorization on the experience of empathy. In Experiment 1, university students reported their empathy for, and intentions to help, a student who described a distressful experience. As predicted, participants reported stronger empathy and helping intentions when the student belonged to an ingroup compared to an outgroup university. Experiments 2 and 3 demonstrated that stronger empathy for outgroup members was experienced following the activation of an ingroup norm that prescribed the experience of this emotion. Activating this norm also led to the expression of more positive attitudes towards the outgroup (Experiment 3), and empathy fully mediated this effect. These findings indicate that like other emotions, empathy is influenced by social categorization processes.