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Empathizing With Suffering vs. Empathizing With Joy: Establishing the Separability of Distinct yet Overlapping Constructs Using Both Experimental and Correlational Methods

Case
By: Published: 2018 | Product: SAGE Research Methods Cases Part 2
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Abstract

The following case will take you through some of the steps involved in a recent project examining whether or not empathy for others’ negative emotions (e.g., sadness, suffering) and empathy for others’ positive emotions (e.g., joy, excitement) are distinct capacities. The case begins by discussing how existing research on empathy was used to help formulate hypotheses and create and select appropriate materials to test those hypotheses. Next, I discuss some of the complexities involved in trying to determine whether two constructs are, in fact, distinct from one another, and review some different statistical techniques for examining the relationships between and among variables. A concrete example of how researchers benefit from and respond to the peer-review process will also be presented. Finally, the case concludes with a discussion of the problem of confounds in psychological research, providing specific examples of some of the considerations researchers have to keep in mind as they attempt to guard against the influence of confounding variables in their experimental studies.

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