The Role of Empathy in Anger Arousal in Violent Offenders and University Students
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A lack of empathic responsiveness toward others has been consistently identified as an important antecedent to aggressive behavior and violent crime, with many rehabilitation programs for violent offenders incorporating treatment modules that are specifically designed to increase offender empathy. This study examined the extent to which both cognitive (perspective taking) and affective (empathic concern, personal distress) empathy predicted anger in both a clinical (male prisoners convicted of a violent offense) and a non-clinical (student) sample. Perspective taking emerged as the strongest predictor of self-reported anger in response to an interpersonal provocation, as well as being most consistently related to scores on measures of general trait anger and methods of anger control. While the relationship between perspective taking and anger was apparent for offenders as well as students, the results did not support the idea that an inability to perspective take is a particular characteristic of violent offenders.