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The Personality Of Empathy Essay

1678 words - 7 pages


The Personality of Empathy
Yecenia N. Riley
University of Phoenix
Measurements and Statistics
Dr. Joshua Briley
October 12, 2008
“Empathy is the idea that the vital properties which we experience in or attribute to any person or object outside ourselves are the projections of our own feelings and thoughts. (Gauss, 2003, p.86)” The study of empathy in personality theory started as early as the early 1800s. Empathy is seen in children as young as two years old. The following work explores how empathy is evoked and measured.
The Personality of Empathy
Empathy is the ability of one person to feel for another or ...view middle of the document...

The STEP evaluated children’s reactions and emotions to eight video skits. The skits were designed to evoke an emotional reaction to the children. The four emotions portrayed in the skits were, happiness, sadness, fear and anger. The test was normed by 39 predominantly white children, 18 girls and 21 boys. The children ranged in age from three to five years old and all spoke English (Howe et al., 2008). After watching a skit with young children, the test participants were asked to identify what happened in the skit, how the child actor felt in the skit and how the participant felt after watching the skit. The test participants indicated how they felt by choosing a picture which matched a facial expression provided. The STEP test was used to evaluate the development of empathy in preschoolers. The test also measured the ability of preschoolers to emotionally identify with other children. Because empathy is believed to be linked to other pro-social behaviors such as cooperation and sharing, this was an important test in socio-psychological development, behavior and personality theory. Additionally, empathy was believed to be more developed in girls than boys but the results of the STEP test indicated that empathy was a personality characteristic that was shared by both girls and boys (Howe et al.).
Carl Rogers was a major personality theorist in the field of psychology who emphasized the importance of empathy in the counseling setting. His theory, also known as the Rogerian therapeutic approach, emphasized the nature of the relationship between client and therapist. He believed that in order to achieve successful therapeutic sessions it was essential to build a successful relationship between the therapist and the client. He believed to achieve that successful professional and efficient relationship, it was crucial that the therapist be genuine towards the client. He stressed much more than a positive repoire with clients. He presented that the therapist should have a supportive and positive regard for his client and have the ability to communicate that positive regard to the client in counseling sessions.
Carl Rogers believed that is was important for therapists to show clients empathy. He described empathy in the therapeutic setting as “the understanding of clients’ feelings and personal meanings as they are experienced by the client and communicating understanding to the client” (Pescitelli, 1996). He emphasized that “showing emphatic understanding was important to the growth promoting climate of sessions” (Pescitelli). The STEP test emphasized the importance of social growth and development in preschoolers. The test specifically addressed and measured preschoolers ability to feel and understand empathy in the course of their social development. Similarly, Carl Rogers addressed emphatic understanding on behalf of therapists towards their clients as the important ingredient that would promote...

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