Empathy Can Sometimes Motivate This Dark, Unjustified Behaviour

Empathy has a dark side which is at odds with its image as a cure-all for the world’s problems.

Contrary to the common view of empathy as an emotion solely eliciting compassion and warmth, empathy can unexpectedly motivate aggression.

The result comes from a new study which found that when feeling empathy towards someone in distress, people are motivated to be more aggressive towards another, even when that other person is not to blame.

The study, published in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, had people reading scenarios about a person who was in financial trouble (Buffone & Poulin, 2014).