Exploring the connection between empathy, neurohormones and aggression

Empathy is typically seen as eliciting warmth and compassion—a generally positive state that makes people do good things to others. However, empathy may also motivate aggression on behalf of the vulnerable other.

Researchers at the State University of New York at Buffalo, examined whether assessed or elicited empathy would lead to situation-specific aggression on behalf of another person, and to explore the potential role of two neurohormones in explaining a connection between empathy and aggression. The study is published in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin.

Design of the Study

Empathic impulses are aimed at reducing the suffering of the target of empathy. Sometimes aggression may be the response that is perceived to best address the need of the other, or best suited to end their suffering.

Jennifer Santisi
Society for Personality and Social Psychology