Today's College Students Lack Empathy

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Today’s College Students Lack Empathy Jeanna Bryner, editor, May 28, 2010 College students today are less likely to “get” the emotions of others than their counterparts 20 and 30 years ago, a new study suggests. Specifically, today’s students scored 40 points lower on a measure of empathy than their elders did. The findings are based on a review of 72 studies of 14,000 American college students conducted between 1979 and 2009. “We found the biggest drop in empathy after the year 2000,” said Sara Konrath, a researcher at the University of Michigan’s Institute of Social Research. The study was presented this week at the annual meeting of the Association for Psychological Science in Boston. Compared with college students of the late 1970s, current students are less likely to agree with statements such as “I sometimes try to understand my friends better by imagining how things look from their perspective,” and “I often have tender, concerned feelings for people less fortunate than I.” “Many people see the current group of college students- sometimes called “Generation Me” as one of the most self-centered, narcissistic, competitive, confident and individualistic in recent history,” said Konrath, who is also affiliated with the University of Rochester Department of Psychiary. Konrath’s colleague and graduate student, Edward O’Brien added, “It’s not surprising that this growing emphasis on the self is accompanied by a continuing devaluation of others.” Other recent studies have shown mixed results on the character of today’s youth. For instance, one study of more than 450,000 high school seniors showed today’s youth no more self-centered than their parents were at their age. Even so, Konrath and O’Brien suggest several reasons for the lower empathy they found, including the ever-increasing exposure to media. Compared to 30 years ago, the

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