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Investigating Empathy Between Dyads: The Role of Familiarity, Psychopathy, Time, and Gender

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posted on 20.09.2022, 09:18 authored by Thompson, Brianna

Empathy research has developed rapidly over the last few decades, yet very little research has examined the relationship between the people within these social interactions and their characteristics. This study aims to explore how familiarity influences cognitive and affective empathy for both familiar and unfamiliar dyads, as well as considering how psychopathy factors, time, and gender may affect empathy. Seventy Eight participants (39 dyads, 20 familiar and 19 unfamiliar) from the general population retrospectively reported their dyad partners’ and their own perceived emotional intensity during four prompted conversations and their psychopathic traits (Psychopathic Personality Inventory - Revised - 40). Emotional intensity ratings and electrodermal activity during the conversations were correlated to obtain cognitive, self-reported affective, and physiological affective empathy coefficients. Results showed a significant difference between familiar and unfamiliar dyads for self-reported affective empathy and cognitive empathy. Unfamiliar dyad’s ability to empathise improved over the duration of the experiment. Self-centred impulsivity was negatively related to all types of empathy. Lastly, the study found no significant difference between male and female participants for all types of empathy. These results indicate that previous experience and time spent with someone can affect an individuals’ ability to empathise. Additionally, the results highlight the potential role of self-centred impulsivity in inhibiting the ability to connect with others.


Copyright Date


Date of Award



Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Rights License

Author Retains Copyright

Degree Discipline

Forensic Psychology

Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Degree Level


Degree Name

Master of Science

ANZSRC Socio-Economic Outcome code

280121 Expanding knowledge in psychology

ANZSRC Type Of Activity code

4 Experimental research

Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Research Masters Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of Psychology


Eisenbarth, Hedwig