Changes in Dispositional Empathy in American College Students Over Time: A meta-analysis

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University of Michigan

Today’s college students are less empathetic than those of the 1980s and 1990s, according to a new study survey conducted by the University of Michigan.

The study analyzed 72 studies of American college students who completed at least one of the surveys on empathic concern, perspective taking, fantasy or personal distress between 1979 and 2009.  Overall, it identified a sharp drop in the empathic concern category since about 2000 as the most significant change.  Empathy is basically explained in the study as “the tendency to react to others’ observed experiences.”

The authors explore possible explanations to the decline in empathy over time, such as a growing emphasis on the self, recent rising trends of violence and bullying, the increasing everyday use of personal technology and media and a rise in competitiveness among students.

Free, 36 pages. E-mail Diane Swanbrow at swanbrow@umich.edu for copies.