Aggression has been linked to empathy and emotions (e.g., guilt) in cross-sectional studies. The purpose of this experiment was to examine the effects of empathy on emotional reactions to aggression and the role of guilt in the empathy–aggression relationship. Seventy-one undergraduate sport and exercise science students with a mean age of 19.56 (SD = 1.94) years were randomly assigned to either a high- or a low-empathy group. We experimentally manipulated empathy using perspective taking instructions and examined the following: (a) participants’ emotional reactions to images of aggressive acts; (b) their reported likelihood to aggress in a hypothetical sport situation; and (c) the extent to which they anticipated feeling guilt if they were to engage in an aggressive act. Participants in the high-empathy group experienced stronger negative emotional reactions to images of aggressive acts and reported lower likelihood to aggress than did those in the low-empathy group. Anticipated guilt partially mediated the effects of empathy on reported likelihood to aggress. Our findings suggest that empathy may help reduce aggressive behavior and highlight the potential mediating role of guilt.
Put Yourself in Their Boots: Effects of Empathy on Emotion and Aggression
Nicholas Stanger, Maria Kavussanu, and Christopher Ring
A Multistudy Cross-Sectional and Experimental Examination Into the Interactive Effects of Moral Identity and Moral Disengagement on Doping
Nicholas Stanger and Susan H. Backhouse
Moral identity and moral disengagement have been linked with doping likelihood. However, experiments testing the temporal direction of these relationships are absent. The authors conducted one cross-sectional and two experimental studies investigating the conjunctive effects of moral identity and moral disengagement on doping likelihood (or intention). Dispositional moral identity was inversely (marginally), and doping moral disengagement, positively, associated with doping intention (Study 1). Manipulating situations to amplify opportunities for moral disengagement increased doping likelihood via anticipated guilt (Study 2). Moreover, dispositional moral identity (Study 2) and inducing moral identity (Study 3) were linked with lower doping likelihood and attenuated the relationship between doping moral disengagement and doping likelihood. However, the suppressing effect of moral identity on doping likelihood was overridden when opportunities for moral disengagement were amplified. These findings support multifaceted antidoping efforts, which include simultaneously enhancing athlete moral identity and personal responsibility alongside reducing social opportunities for moral disengagement.
The Role of Preperformance and In-Game Emotions in Cognitive Interference During Sport Performance: The Moderating Role of Self-Confidence and Reappraisal
Nicholas Stanger, Ryan Chettle, Jessica Whittle, and Jamie Poolton
This research examined whether prevalent preperformance (Study 1) and in-game (Study 2) emotions were associated with cognitive interference (i.e., thoughts of escape, task-irrelevant thoughts, and performance worries) and whether any effects were moderated by reappraisal and self-confidence. In Study 1, team-sport players’ preperformance anxiety positively, and excitement negatively, predicted cognitive interference during a competitive match. However, no moderating effects for reappraisal or confidence were revealed. In Study 2, badminton players’ in-game anxiety, dejection, and happiness positively predicted, whereas excitement negatively predicted, cognitive interference during a competitive match. Moreover, reappraisal and confidence moderated the relationships of excitement and happiness with task-irrelevant thoughts. The findings underscore the role that preperformance and in-game emotions can play in athletes’ thought processing during sport performance, as well as highlighting the importance of considering the effects of self-confidence and reappraisal on the role of in-game emotions in cognitive interference.
Empathy Inhibits Aggression in Competition: The Role of Provocation, Emotion, and Gender
Nicholas Stanger, Maria Kavussanu, David McIntyre, and Christopher Ring
Although the empathy–aggression relationship has been well documented, research has yet to establish whether emotions mediate and gender moderates this relationship in athletes, under conditions of low and high provocation. In this experiment, we assigned team-sport athletes to either a high (n = 40) or a low (n = 40) empathy group, and asked them to compete in a reaction-time task against a (fictitious) opponent, under conditions of low and high provocation. Empathy reduced aggression (i.e., intensity of electrical shock administered to the opponent) at low provocation in men, and at both low and high provocation in women. Guilt mediated the effect of empathy on aggression at low provocation in men; anger did not mediate any effects of empathy on aggression. Our findings indicate that the inhibitory effect of empathy on aggression and the mediating role of guilt are moderated by provocation and gender.