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Title:Elicitation of empathic emotions using film: development of a stimulus set
Author(s):Howard, Aisha
Advisor(s):Verona, Edelyn; Allen, Nicole E.
Department / Program:Psychology
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Abstract:Empathy is a complex, multi-component construct broadly defined as the ability to understand and share another person’s emotional state (Davis, 1996). Empathy is intimately engrained in social interactions (Hoffman, 2008), and the understanding of empathic emotions is integral to the advancement of our conceptualization of human behavior. Furthermore, there is increasing interest in the elicitation and induction of empathic emotions, particularly in the context of specific psychopathologies that are characterized by dysfunction in both affective (e.g., psychopathy; Blair, 1995) and cognitive (e.g., autism; Hill & Frith, 2003) aspects of empathic responsivity. The use of emotional film clips provides several advantages compared to other methods of emotion elicitation, including ease of standardization and a high degree of ecological validity. Furthermore, given the complex nature of empathy, film clips allow for presentations of more emotional and complex stimuli in relatively short periods of time compared to other methods (e.g., static images). To date, research on the validation of film stimuli has primarily focused on the elicitation of discrete emotions (e.g., happiness, anger), and a standardized database available to all researchers is needed that considers the elicitation of more complex emotions, such as empathy. The primary goal of the current study was to validate a new set of short film clips for use in research attempting to elicit empathic emotions. Several components were considered in validation, including comparison of empathy film clips to both neutral film clips consisting of nature scenes and persons in conversation, as well as control negative, non-empathy emotional films consisting of both horror and people in distress. Additionally, we made comparisons across various participant ratings, including general negative affect, positive affect, valence, arousal, intensity, and discreteness, which have been used in prior studies validating film clip stimuli (e.g., Gross Please & Levenson, 1995). Overall, the results suggest that all of the Empathy film clips assessed in the current study elicited higher ratings of empathic concern compared to Non-Empathy unpleasant and Neutral film clips. However, Empathy film clips differed slightly on ratings of other emotion dimensions (e.g., general negative and positive affect, arousal) and whether empathy was elicited with discreteness relative to the other film categories. The use of several methods to validate these film clips allow the current film set to be employed in research that approaches the elicitation and measurement of empathic emotion. Additionally, recommendations are discussed that control for certain aspects of empathy, such as the presence of general affect as opposed to measuring empathy as a whole. These recommendations may be considered when selecting specific film stimuli for the development of experimental paradigms focusing on the elicitation and assessment of empathy.
Issue Date:2014-09-16
Rights Information:Copyright 2014 Aisha Howard
Date Available in IDEALS:2014-09-16
Date Deposited:2014-08

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