People’s default levels of empathy toward members of a distant group tend to be low. The current research shows that favorable perceptions regarding the personality of a group’s leader can stimulate empathy and pro-social behavior toward his or her countrymen. In four experimental studies (N = 884), we found that exposure to a news article that positively (vs. negatively) characterizes a foreign national leader (vs. non-national leader) led to (a) increased levels of empathy toward distressed citizens of that leader’s nation, (b) willingness to help those citizens, (c) motivation to invest time in inspecting additional information elucidating the circumstances that led to this adversity, and (d) an actual monetary donation for the benefit of those people. This effect turned out to be prominent when the national leader’s domestic popularity was perceived as high. The results show that national leaders are in a position to contribute to more empathetic inter-society relations and enhance pro-social behavior.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
Author would like to thank Joseph H. and Belle R. Braun Lectureship in Social Sciences. The author(s) received no financial support for the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article.
© 2021 by the Society for Personality and Social Psychology, Inc.
- national leaders
- pro-social behavior