Age Differences in Empathy: Multidirectional and Context-Dependent

Cornelia Wieck, Ute Kunzmann

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

52 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

This study investigated age differences in empathy, focusing on empathic accuracy (the ability to perceive another’s emotions accurately), emotional congruence (the capacity to share another’s emotions), and sympathy. Participants, 101 younger (Mage = 24 years) and 101 older (Mage = 69 years) women, viewed 6 film clips, each portraying a younger or an older woman reliving and thinking aloud about an autobiographical memory. The emotional quality (anger, sadness, happiness) and the age relevance (young, old) of the memorized events were systematically varied. In comparison to their younger counterparts, older women were less accurate in perceiving the protagonists’ emotions, but they reported similar levels of emotional congruence and greater sympathy. In addition, age deficits in empathic accuracy were moderated by the age relevance of the task, that is, younger and older women’s empathic accuracy did not differ if the protagonists’ memorized personal experience was of high relevance to older adults. These findings speak for multidirectional and context-dependent age differences in empathy.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)407-419
Number of pages13
JournalPsychology and Aging
Volume30
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2015
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • ADULT LIFE-SPAN
  • EMOTION RECOGNITION
  • FACIAL EXPRESSIONS
  • PERSPECTIVE-TAKING
  • PROSOCIAL BEHAVIOR
  • OLDER-ADULTS
  • MOTIVATION
  • SADNESS
  • PREFERENCES
  • INFORMATION

Cite this