More analytical, less intuitive people are better at empathy

Posted on August 12, 2016

So what’s the best way to approach this? New research published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology suggests that most of us believe that the best approach is to trust our instincts. But the paper goes on to show that, on the contrary, accurate empathy comes from operating deliberately and analytically.

Christine Ma-Kellams of the University of La Verne and Jennifer Lerner of Harvard began by asking participants recruited online to consider a simple choice: whether to advise a struggling subordinate to take a more analytical approach or a more intuitive one. When the subordinate’s problems were framed generically, participants didn’t on balance prefer one answer over the other. But when the problem was to “become better at inferring the feelings of other people” then the advice to go on instinct was three times as popular as the analysis option.

The participants’ intuition isn’t so crazy. After all, other people’s emotions provoke an emotional reaction in us: consider the way infants mimic the expressions of their mothers, and the immediate visceral reaction we experience when we witness strong emotions in others. Also it’s known that an over-analytical approach can be counterproductive in other contexts – for instance, describing details of faces can lead to poorer later recognition of faces. But is it true in this case – is gut feeling really the better strategy?

To read the full article, click the link below.

Source material from Scientific American

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