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    People Often Avoid Feeling Compassion for Others When They Feel It’s a Lot of Effort



    Summary: People may actively decide to withhold feeling compassion for others when they believe it is more challenging or requires mental effort.

    Source: Experimental Psychology: General.

    Compassion helps us understand and feel sympathy for others when they go through hardships, but in a recent study, the researchers found that when given the option, people often chose to avoid feeling compassion for others and described that doing so was mentally effortful, which was linked to their choices.

    However, the researchers also observed that if the situation involved a person they were close to, such as a family member or a friend, people were more considerate to feel compassion and that being compassionate in these circumstances was easier.

    The study is first of its kind to examine how and when people choose to feel compassion. Oftentimes, people are advised to have empathy or compassion for others, with the idea that these feelings will lead towards cooperation, openness and a willingness to help those who are suffering. The researchers wanted to investigate how people choose to undertake these emotional processes, whether they would be approached or avoided, and why this would be the case.

    To study and survey these questions, the researchers performed a series of studies with the number of participants in the range of 62 to 215 in each. They developed three virtual card decks that participants could choose from and would tell their response to other people — one that asked them to show compassion for the person on the card, one that asked them to show empathy, and one that asked them to stay objective and simply describe the person. With this information the researchers then used it in several experiments.

    The researchers found that people were more willing to display compassion for their loved ones compared to strangers, and this was associated with experiencing reduced difficulty with compassion for loved ones.

    Published: Experimental Psychology: General.

    Contact: Katie Bohn, Penn State.

    Details: Image source IStock


    Hi, I’m Aarti, My Psychoanalytical approach towards my clients is to empower them to better their lives through improving their relationship with themselves. I believe shame and guilt is a common barrier to change. I aim to guide my clients through re authoring their narratives where shame, guilt, and other problems have less power and take up less space.

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