Empathy and attitudes: can feeling for a member of a stigmatized group improve feelings toward the group?

J Pers Soc Psychol. 1997 Jan;72(1):105-18. doi: 10.1037//0022-3514.72.1.105.


Results of 3 experiments suggest that feeling empathy for a member of a stigmatized group can improve attitudes toward the group as a whole. In Experiments 1 and 2, inducing empathy for a young woman with AIDS (Experiment 1) or a homeless man (Experiment 2) led to more positive attitudes toward people with AIDS or toward the homeless, respectively. Experiment 3 tested possible limits of the empathy-attitude effect by inducing empathy toward a member of a highly stigmatized group, convicted murderers, and measuring attitudes toward this group immediately and then 1-2 weeks later. Results provided only weak evidence of improved attitudes toward murderers immediately but strong evidence of improved attitudes 1-2 weeks later.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Analysis of Variance
  • Attitude*
  • Empathy*
  • Female
  • HIV Seropositivity
  • Humans
  • Ill-Housed Persons
  • Male
  • Minority Groups*
  • Persuasive Communication*
  • Prejudice*
  • Prisoners
  • Psychological Theory
  • Social Responsibility
  • Time Factors