Empathy and genocide : American attitudes toward human rights commitment / by Laura Ann Burgdorf.
The last century has seen more genocides than any other time in history. Research on the factors that contribute to the formation of international human rights attitudes is important to advancing the field of genocide research. Previous research has shown that a variety of personal and contextual factors influence attitudes toward human rights commitment, including dispositional empathy (McFarland & Mathews, 2005b). This study more fully explored the relationship between different facets of dispositional empathy and human rights commitment, with consideration given to the potential impact of socially desirable responding. Three self-report questionnaires were administered online to 201 participants aged 21 to 85 years, using a convenient, e-mail forwarding sampling method. Bivariate correlations and regressions were performed between the Human Rights Scenarios Scale (McFarland & Mathews, 2005b) and the four subscales of the Interpersonal Reactivity Index (Davis, 1983) and the Reynolds' Short Form C of the Marlowe-Crowne Social Desirability Scale (Reynolds, 1982). Results showed that empathic concern, a form of affective dispositional empathy, and fantasizing, a cognitive type of empathy, were positively correlated with human rights commitment and also appeared to play a part in predicting levels of commitment. Socially desirable responding, however, was not correlated, nor did it appear to impact the relationship between dispositional empathy and human rights commitment. These findings suggest that both affective and cognitive dispositional empathy contribute to people's commitment to human rights and may help shed light on what motivates individuals to support human rights foreign policy. Further research should be conducted to determine how dispositional empathy interacts with other correlates of human rights commitment and also how levels of commitment influence the development of foreign policy on interventions to stop genocide.
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