Are empathy traits associated with cultural orientation?: a cross-cultural comparison of young adults

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University of Alabama Libraries

Empathy plays a pivotal role in social interactions and in academic achievements in fields such as reading and language. Different factors have been investigated regarding empathy; however, the role of culture has not obtained enough attention. The main aim of the present study is identifying the relationship between cultural orientation and the affective and cognitive empathic tendencies of university students in two societies, namely Turkey (N=128) and the United States (N=127). The most prominent empathy scales––the “Interpersonal Reactivity Index” (IRI; Davis, 1983) and the “Empathy Quotient” (EQ; Baron-Cohen & Wheelwright, 2004)––were used to measure empathy traits of students and the “Individualism and Collectivism Scale” (Triandis & Gelfand, 1998) was used to measure cultural orientation. The analyses indicated that empathy is negatively related to individualistic orientation, while positively related to collectivistic orientation. Moreover, contrary to the literature, Turkish students obtained higher scores in vertical individualism than U.S. students, while U.S. students obtained higher scores in horizontal individualism than Turkish students. Findings also revealed that Turkish university students have greater personal distress than U.S. university students. In addition, results showed that empathy scores of female participants are higher than male participants and female participants have a tendency toward collectivistic orientation. Other results, their implications, limitations, and suggestions for future studies are discussed as well.

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Educational psychology