Happy people, people that tend to be more socially outgoing with many friends, tend to value their ability to empathy.

And, at first glance, logic might support their thought. Someone that gets along with many people probably is very good at reading others emotions, right? Well, research shows that’s not necessarily the case. Their confidence outweighs the ability to form an accurate assessment.

Research conducted by Yale’s Hillary Devlin assessed 121 adults in studying their happiness, and asked how good they were at empathizing. The happier participants tended to believe they were better empathizers in general.

Devlin, H., Zaki, J., Ong, D., & Gruber, J. (2014). Not As Good as You Think? Trait Positive Emotion Is Associated with Increased Self-Reported Empathy but Decreased Empathic Performance PLoS ONE, 9 (10) DOI: http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0110470

The research went on to show four separate videos with a monologue about autobiographical events.  There were 2 videos about positive events, and two videos about negative events. Participants rated each second, and the level of positive and negative emotion they thought the speaking was feeling at the current time.

The participants with a more upbeat personality believe their accuracy to be higher than others. However, the research found that the happier participants were no more accurate than the downbeat participants. It also showed that happier participants were particularly worse at figuring out the emotional tone of a highly negative monologue.

There is something positive about the upbeat participants, however. The study found that the positive people were a bit more accurate in spotting upward shifts in emotion. This might signify that upbeat people may be more sensitive to shifts in emotion that matches their own natural state.

Most psychology research measures empathy based on participants assessments of themselves. This study takes a new approach that might change the way future studies are conducted.

All in all, this study is certain to spark some debate.

Do you tend to agree with the results?

Share your thoughts!


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