Two Further Challenges
This chapter addresses two challenges to the empathy-altruism hypothesis that have attracted attention in recent years—physical versus psychological escape and self-other merging. The physical-versus-psychological-escape challenge is based on the assumption that when one feels empathic concern, out of sight is not out of mind, and so easy physical escape does not provide easy psychological escape. Both indirect and direct experimental evidence on the effects of physical and psychological escape is reviewed. The evidence fails to support this first challenge. The self-other merging challenge is that empathic concern reflects a merging of self and other, and so in helping the target of empathy one is actually helping oneself. Various versions of an empathy-merging hypothesis are distinguished, and the relevant experimental evidence is reviewed. Once again, the evidence fails to support this challenge. It is concluded that the empathy-altruism hypothesis should be tentatively accepted as true.
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