4 years ago

Don't walk in her shoes! Different forms of perspective taking affect stress physiology

Helping behavior predicts both positive and negative outcomes for helpers' health and well-being. One reason for this may be that helpers can engage in different kinds of perspective taking, which in turn have different effects on well-being. Imaging oneself in a suffering other's place, or imagine-self perspective taking (ISPT), has been shown to lead to greater levels of personal distress than merely thinking about the other's feelings, or imagine-other perspective taking (IOPT). However, no research has examined the effects of ISPT and IOPT live as a person is engaged in helping behavior. Since self-report on emotional states is obtrusive during pursuit of a helping goal we examined distress indirectly by exploring whether ISPT and IOPT might differentially affect stress physiology during helping behavior. The present research set out to explore whether different forms of perspective taking may differently affect a helper's stress physiology. We hypothesized that during helping ISPT would induce a pattern of negative arousal, or threat, while IOPT would predict relatively greater invigorating arousal, or challenge. 202 participants (83 women) engaged in ISPT, IOPT, or remaining objective while actively providing help to a suffering person via a speech task. As predicted, ISPT compared to IOPT/remaining objective resulted in relative threat, whereas IOPT resulted in marginally greater relative challenge. This effect was mediated by increased perceived demands of the situation. Moreover, self-reported distress was only associated with threat during ISPT, but not during IOPT. Different forms of perspective taking may have different effects on helpers' health and well-being.

Publisher URL: www.sciencedirect.com/science

DOI: S0022103116303961

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