The risk of becoming homeless is a growing concern for both adults and the youth within the United States (Morton, Dworsky, & Samuels, 2017). The present study examined how the use of perspective taking instruction to induce empathy could be used as a promoter of prosocial behavior toward people experiencing homelessness. Past research has found evidence to support that asking an individual to consider what another person is thinking and feeling can lead to feelings of empathy, which can then motivate helping behavior (Oceja et al., 2014). Researchers have discovered a need for better suited resources for the growing homeless population, which include the ability of those working with the homeless to empathize and build connections with those they wish to help (Barman-Adhikari et al., 2016). Therefore, the present study hypothesized that participants given empathy inducing perspective taking instructions, versus objective perspective taking instruction, would indicate a higher likelihood of donating money (i.e., a prosocial behavior) to the homeless individual in the story provided. It was also hypothesized that those in the empathy group, versus the objective group, would donate more money, on average, to the homeless person in the story. The 42 participants were all psychology students at Western Oregon University who were recruited via SONA. The experiment was conducted via a survey administered online through Qualtrics. Participants were given one of the two perspective taking instructions, a short story to read about a homeless person, which was then followed by two questions in relation to likelihood of donating money and the amount willing to donate. The results indicated trends in line with the hypothesis, however, after performing an independent t-test it was discovered that neither result was significant: likelihood to donate money t(40)=1.142, n.s., amount of money willing to donate t(40)= 0.83, n.s. These findings suggest that further research is required to support that perspective taking instruction can effectively provoke prosocial behavior toward the homeless. Developing an understanding of ways to increase empathy toward the homeless, has the potential to improve current and future resources and aid in the effort to decrease the number of homeless individuals within the U.S. at any given time.
Rabe, Emily, "Perspective Taking, Empathy, and Prosocial Behavior" (2020). Academic Excellence Showcase Proceedings. 207.
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