A communication -based model for testing the effects of empathic arousal on risk appraisals, attitudes, and behavioral intentions in response to HIV /AIDS prevention messages

Rose Goldberger Campbell, Purdue University


Empathy, which means literally, “to feel for another,” has been studied for its potential persuasive effects on prosocial behavior, such as donating money to a children's organization. Although scholars have long recognized the motivational influences of felt empathy, no studies have examined empathy as an induced state to determine its potential for spurring self-directed health behavior. This assumption could not be tested, however, because there were no existing measures to assess the state of empathic arousal. Several measures of cognitive and emotional empathy are available to study one's propensity for feeling empathy, but there were no measures for assessing the state of empathic arousal in response to a message stimulus. ^ This dissertation accomplishes three goals. First, it describes a theoretical framework for understanding the persuasive process associated with empathic arousal. Second, it presents a test of the reliability and validity of a new cognitive/affective empathy measure, the Media Empathy Response Scale, which was designed to measure induced empathic states. Results support a multi-dimensional scale solution, and also support hypotheses related to internal consistency, construct validity, and content validity. Finally, it tests the persuasive effects of empathy on risk appraisals, attitudes, and behavioral intentions in an AIDS prevention context. Results provide evidence for the theoretical model and show promise for future research in this area. ^




Major Professor: Austin S. Babrow, Purdue University.

Subject Area

Education, Health|Mass Communications

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