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Characterising the relationship between empathy and emotion regulation

Thompson, N. (2019) Characterising the relationship between empathy and emotion regulation. PhD thesis, University of Reading

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Abstract/Summary

Empathy and emotion regulation are both processes that are vital for effective social functioning and emotional wellbeing. Broadly speaking, empathy refers to understanding and/or sharing another’s emotion, and emotion regulation refers to the processes by which one manages emotions. Despite increasing awareness that empathy and emotion regulation may be closely related, there has been little empirical study of this topic and the nature of the inter-relationships between their different component processes are not well characterised. This thesis addresses current gaps in the literature by utilising a range of approaches, including self-report, behavioural, eye-tracking, and psychophysiology measures, to examine the relationship between different trait and task measures of empathy and emotion regulation. It was predicted that the cognitive (i.e. understanding others’ emotions) and affective (i.e. sharing others’ emotions) dimensions of empathy would show different relationships with emotion regulation. Broadly speaking, it was expected that emotion regulation abilities would be positively associated with cognitive empathy but negatively associated with affective empathy. There was strong support for the hypothesis that empathy and emotion regulation are related. Furthermore, in most studies there was evidence to suggest that cognitive and affective empathy are related to emotion regulation abilities and behaviours in different ways. Divergent 3 relationships between trait and task metrics of cognitive and affective empathy were observed for various emotion regulation measures, including habitual strategy use, implicit emotion regulation ability, and reappraisal ability. While there was some support for the hypothesis that emotion regulation abilities are positively associated with cognitive empathy but negatively associated with affective empathy, conflicting findings were observed. This thesis makes a significant contribution to current knowledge and represents an important step towards elucidating the nature of the relationship between empathy and emotion regulation. The findings also highlight some important considerations regarding the relationship between different methods used to assess empathy and emotion regulation, and prompt actionable research questions to be addressed by future work.

Item Type:Thesis (PhD)
Thesis Supervisor:Chakrabarti, B.
Thesis/Report Department:School of Psychology and Clinical Language Sciences
Identification Number/DOI:
Divisions:Faculty of Life Sciences > School of Psychology and Clinical Language Sciences
ID Code:88859

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