AuthorStruyk, Melinda Willett
AdvisorSmith, Eric D.
MetadataShow full item record
PublisherThe University of Arizona.
RightsCopyright © is held by the author. Digital access to this material is made possible by the University Libraries, University of Arizona. Further transmission, reproduction, presentation (such as public display or performance) of protected items is prohibited except with permission of the author.
AbstractPrior literature suggests that reflective writing is a beneficial tool in various measures of mental and physical well-being. This thesis explored whether reflective writing could also be used to intervene on empathy. Empathy is correlated with prosocial behavior, which is said to improve coping strategies, improve relationships, and even result in less physical ailments (Batson & Ahmad, 2009; Cohen et al., 1997, 2003; Decety & Jackson, 2004; Eisenberg & Miller, 1987; Helliwell et al., 2017; Konrath et al., 2011; Kremer & Dietzen, 1991; Medalie et al., 1976). Strategically designed writing prompts that manipulated pronoun usage were given to participants (N = 112) at a university in the southwest United States. Participants (18 – 21 years of age), took an empathy test measure two subscales of empathy (empathic concern and perspective taking) before the writing prompt. They were then asked to write about an interpersonal conflict using first-person pronouns for 7.5 minutes. Following the 7.5-minute writing phase, participants were randomly assigned to one of three conditions: the control, first-person self to other, or third-person omniscient condition. The control condition asked participants to continue writing about the same story in first-person. The first-person self to other condition asked participants to write from another person’s perspective in the story, also using first-person pronouns. Participants assigned to the third-person omniscient condition were asked to write about their story using third-person pronouns. Participants again took the empathy test measuring empathic concern and perspective taking after writing. Results revealed that lower scores on empathic concern predict more change in empathic concern scores following the writing prompt. This was also found to be true for perspective taking in the first-person self to other and third-person conditions, however, these results did reach statistical significance. Further studies should explore the benefit of writing interventions for individuals with lower empathy scores.
Degree ProgramGraduate College