What is it about?

Empathy is vital in our everyday social interactions, close relationships, and at work. Despite our knowledge about the importance of empathy in our daily lives, there is only scarce evidence about what exactly empathizers want to do with the emotions of others'. We are among the first to test whether empathy plays a role in wanting others' to feel better (so-called hedonic interpersonal emotion regulation goals) or worse (so-called counter-hedonic interpersonal emotion regulation goals), and whether empathizers think they succeeded in their interpersonal emotion regulation attempts.

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Why is it important?

We show that most of the time, empathizers want others' to feel better. This is true for people who report to be more empathic generally, but also for people who feel empathy in a given situations (regardless of how empathic they report to be in general). We also show that to make others' feel better, it is important to not feel distressed about the other person's emotions. Interestingly, we also find that, in the minority of cases, empathizers want others to feel worse (possibly to benefit those others in the long-run). However, this finding only applies to some components of empathy, while other empathic components are associated with lower levels of wanting others to feel worse.


I personally think it important to incorporate empathy in our daily lives. Knowing how to react empathically gives us the opportunity to actively choose empathy.

Eva J. Geiger
Ruprecht Karls Universitat Heidelberg

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: Empathy is associated with interpersonal emotion regulation goals in everyday life., Emotion, December 2023, American Psychological Association (APA),
DOI: 10.1037/emo0001332.
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