Experiential Similarity Of Depression And Interpersonal Empathy

Sarah E. Caputo, Illinois State University

Imported from ProQuest Caputo_ilstu_0092N_11276.pdf


The ability to build and maintain supportive, social relationships has been linked to both physical and psychological well-being (e.g., Baumeister & Leary, 1995; Kawachi & Berkman, 2001). Yet, social struggles are a commonly observed symptom among individuals with Major Depressive Disorder (MDD), particularly with regards to interpersonal empathy. Perceptions of interpersonal similarity can influence empathic engagement with others (e.g., Batson et al., 1996; Hodges, Kiel, Kramer, Veach, & Villanueva, 2010); often, interpersonal similarity will lead to greater empathic engagement. The present study asked participants to listen to audio clips of a fictitious therapy client discussing either depression or non-depression-related financial distress and then to indicate the degree to which they felt and expressed empathy for this client via written response letters. I hypothesized that participants with depression would report greater feelings of empathy than non-depressed participants and that depressed participants who specifically listened to the audio clip of a depressed peer would express greater empathy for their peer than depressed participants who listened to the audio clip related to financial distress and non-depressed participants in either recording condition. Although these hypotheses were not supported, a discussion of possible implications for this research is offered.