Using performance art to promote intergroup prosociality by cultivating the belief that empathy is unlimited

Yossi Hasson*, Einat Amir, Danit Sobol-Sarag, Maya Tamir, Eran Halperin

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations

Abstract

Empathy is important for resolving intergroup conflicts. However, people often tend to feel less empathy toward people who do not belong to their social group (i.e., outgroup members). We propose that this tendency is due, in part, to the belief that empathy is a limited resource. To overcome this issue, we develop an intervention synthesizing psychology and art to increase the belief that empathy is unlimited. In six studies (n = 2118), we find that the more people believe empathy is limited, the less outgroup empathy they experience. Moreover, leading people to believe that empathy is unlimited increase outgroup empathy, leads to greater support for prosocial actions toward outgroup members, and encourages more empathic behaviors toward outgroup members in face-to-face intergroup interactions. These intervention effects are observed across various intergroup contexts involving different ethnic, national, religious, and political groups. Thus, changing beliefs about empathy may improve intergroup relations, and conveying this belief through art may promote social change.

Original languageAmerican English
Article number7786
JournalNature Communications
Volume13
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Dec 2022

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022, The Author(s).

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