“Empathic responding may be elicited by different processes, depending on the available situational and affective cues. We investigated two such processes, perspective-taking and nonverbal mimicry. In Study 1, participants watched an embarrassed or unembarrassed confederate dancing to music while either remaining objective or engaging in perspective-taking. Both manipulations affected empathic embarrassment. Study 2 further examined the effects of targets’ embarrassment displays and observers’ prior experience with the situation upon spontaneous perspective-taking, expressive mimicry, and empathic embarrassment. Embarrassment displays increased mimicry, but also spontaneous perspective-taking and subsequent empathy. Prior experience moderated the effects of embarrassment displays on perspective-taking and empathy. Path analyses demonstrated that embarrassment displays exerted indirect effects on empathic embarrassment through both perspective-taking and mimicry. The results suggest that available affective and situational cues can activate different routes to empathy, and highlight the value of simultaneously investigating target- and observer-based sources of influence.”
Photo: flickr/Alex E. Proimos
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