Empathy Study

By Katie Campbell

An exciting study performed by Michigan State University researchers in conjunction with University of Chicago and Indiana University has concluded that the United States ranks in the top 10 most empathetic countries. The study, published in the Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, analyzed data from an online survey completed by more than 104,000 people in 63 countries.

The survey measured each participant’s compassion and their inclination to picture life from someone else’s point of view. Ecuador was ranked as the most empathetic country followed by Saudi Arabia, Peru, Denmark, and Korea among others. Many of the researchers were surprised that three of the most highly ranked countries (Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, and Kuwait) were in the Middle East because of the recent history of tension and violence in the area. They supposed that the results may be biased because the survey did not measure compassion toward people inside one’s own country vs. in other countries, that the results.

Interestingly, research published in 2011 by some of the authors of this paper has suggested that the increase in social media, violence and bullying, new parenting styles, and more pressure to succeed has decreased compassion and empathy in students in the US. The authors of the recent study warn that even though a top-10 finish for the United States in 2016 appears promising, the country is in an era of rapid individualization that may cause a drastic change in its ranking in the next half-century. Overall, this study is the first of its kind, and over time may concretely show how cultures, and countries, are constantly changing and evolving.

Michigan State University. "America ranks in top 10 in empathy." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 14 October 2016. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/10/161014150930.htm>.