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College Students Are Less Empathic Than Generations Past

Research presented at the conference of the Association for Psychological Science found that today's college students are far less empathic than their counterparts 30 years ago. Christie Nicholson reports

The rise of social media sites like Facebook, MySpace and Flikr, has been accompanied by fears that we are producing the most narcissistic “Generation Me” in history. But is there any actual scientific evidence for that view?


Well, a study of 14,000 college students found that today’s young people are 40 percent less empathetic than college kids from 30 years ago. The research was presented this weekend at the annual meeting of Association for Psychological Science.


Researchers analyzed data from studies conducted between 1979 and 2009, and found the sharpest drop in empathy occurred in the last nine years.


For instance, today’s students are less likely to agree with statements like, “I sometimes try to understand my friends better by imagining how things look from their perspective" and "I often have tender, concerned feelings for people less fortunate than me."


According to one of the lead researchers, Ed O’Brien, [AUDIO QUOTE] “It’s harder for today’s college student to empathize with others becau se so much of their social lives is done through a computer and not through real life interaction.”


O’Brien also notes that students are facing increasing competition so they’re spending much more time working on their grades and resumes, instead of socializing.


[AUDIO QUOTE] “I think our best suggestion now is to force yourself to step outside the computer a little bit each day and try to remember what it’s like to relate to others in the real world.”


Christie Nicholson

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