Home »

Empathy gap

The meaning of «empathy gap»

A hot-cold empathy gap is a cognitive bias in which people underestimate the influences of visceral drives on their own attitudes, preferences, and behaviors.[1]

The most important aspect of this idea is that human understanding is "state-dependent". For example, when one is angry, it is difficult to understand what it is like for one to be calm, and vice versa; when one is blindly in love with someone, it is difficult to understand what it is like for one not to be, (or to imagine the possibility of not being blindly in love in the future). Importantly, an inability to minimize one's gap in empathy can lead to negative outcomes in medical settings (e.g., when a doctor needs to accurately diagnose the physical pain of a patient),[2] and in workplace settings (e.g., when an employer needs to assess the need for an employee's bereavement leave).[3]

Hot-cold empathy gaps can be analyzed according to their direction:[2]

They can also be classified in regards to their relation with time (past or future) and whether they occur intra- or inter-personally:[2]

The term hot-cold empathy gap was coined by Carnegie Mellon University psychologist George Loewenstein. Hot-cold empathy gaps are one of Loewenstein's major contributions to behavioral economics.[according to whom?]

Visceral factors are an array of influences which include hunger, thirst, sexual arousal, drug cravings for the drugs one is addicted to, physical pain, and strong emotions. These drives have a disproportionate effect on decision making and behavior: the mind, when affected (i.e., in a hot state), tends to ignore all other goals in an effort to placate these influences. These states can lead a person to feel "out of control" and act impulsively.[5][6][7]

Hot-cold empathy gap is also dependent on the person's memory of visceral experience. As such, it is very common to underestimate visceral state due to restrictive memory. In general, people are more likely to underestimate the effect of pain in a cold state as compared to those in the hot state.

Nordgren, van der Pligt and van Harreveld (2006) assessed the impact of pain on the subjects performance on a memory test. In the assessment process, participants were questioned how pain and other factors affected their performance.[8] The results revealed that those participants in the pain free or cold state undervalued the impact of pain on their performance. Whereas, participants undergoing pain, accurately measured the effect of pain on performance.[8]

Implications of the empathy gap were explored in the realm of sexual decision-making, where young men in an unaroused "cold state" failed to predict that in an aroused "hot state" they will be more likely to make risky sexual decisions, (e.g., not using a condom).[9]

The empathy gap has also been an important idea in research about the causes of bullying.[10]: IV  In one study examining a central theory that, "only by identifying with a victim’s social suffering can one understand its devastating effects,"[11] researchers created five experiments. The first four examined the degree to which participants in a game who were not excluded could estimate the social pain of participants who were excluded. The findings were that those who were not socially excluded consistently underestimated the pain felt by those who were excluded. A survey included in the study directed at teachers' opinions of school policy toward bullying found that those with an experience of social pain, caused by bullying, often rated the pain experienced by those facing bullying or social exclusion as higher than teachers who did not have such experience, and further, that teachers who had experienced social pain were more likely to punish students for bullying.[3]

Related Searches

List of Doctor Who audio plays by Big Finish
Video games as an art form
Empathic design
contact us full version