UCSB researchers studying empathy in relationships find that in the absence of caring, understanding alone doesn’t cut it
New research by psychologists at UC Santa Barbara reveals that simply understanding your partner’s suffering isn’t sufficient to be helpful in a stressful situation; you’ve got to actually care that they’re suffering in the first place.
The findings, published in the journal Psychological Science, provide the first evidence that cognitive and affective forms of empathy work together to facilitate responsive behavior.
“When people were empathically accurate — when they had an accurate understanding of their partner’s thoughts and feelings — they were more responsive only when they also felt more empathic concern, more compassion and motivation to attend to their partner’s needs,” explained lead author Lauren Winczewski, a graduate student in UCSB’s Department of Psychological & Brain Sciences.
By Shelly Leachman