In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, many people expressed a lax attitude to the policies put in place to keep the public safe despite the high risk of infection and its devastating effects on health across the United States. It is possible that this response may be partially due to a “numbness to numbers,” a phenomenon that describes diminished empathy for a large group of people experiencing a negative event (eg. COVID-19). The present study explored the relationship between levels of situational empathy and the medium of exposure to COVID-19 mortality information (eg. personal story or fact sheet) in an undergraduate student sample. Additionally, it may be possible that a person’s proximity to others may influence health-informed behaviors given the easily contagious nature of the COVID-19 virus. Proximity in others is later explored in further detail.
We hypothesized that there would be a higher empathetic response towards personal accounts of experiences with COVID-19 mortality. We also hypothesized that a lower empathy response would correspond with exposure to COVID-19 mortality statistics via a fact sheet. Participants completed an online survey that exposed them to either a video interview condition of a personal loss due to COVID-19 or a statistics condition with a fact sheet about COVID-19 mortality. Participants then answered questions about their reaction to the condition that gauged their feelings of empathy (eg., trait, situational).
Dr. Abby L. Braden
First Advisor Department
Dr. Monica A. Longmore
Second Advisor Department
Durkin, Beth, "Comparing Levels of Situational Empathy Based on Medium of Exposure to COVID-19 Mortality Information and Proximity to Others" (2023). Honors Projects. 919.
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