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It is a research report about the correlation between empathy and agreeableness, as also other two dimensions from The Big Five personality trait(Openness, extraversion, consciousness, neuroticism). Assessment has to include three of reports, which are added a file as a file below as also another 4 references. I also have questionnaire pack, scoring of the questionnaire and all dataset. The topic of the assignment is: specifically how empathy is related to personality trait, concentrating on agreeableness.

The Big Five Personality Model

Personality of an individual is essentially their characteristic pattern of behavior, feelings and thought processes that differentiate them from other individuals. The Big Five personality model, which is also known as the Five Factor inventory model is based on the basic five personality descriptors. The five factors defined in this model include Conscientiousness, agreeableness, neuroticism, openness and extraversion (Cobb-Clark & Schurer, 2012). The characteristics associated with the personality factors are-

  • Conscientiousness- Individuals with a high conscientiousness score have the tendency to be organized and efficient, to exude planned behavior; show self-discipline and aim for achieving their goals Individuals with low conscientiousness are usually easy going, careless, spontaneous, flexible, sometimes sloppy and unreliable (Goldberg, 1993).
  • Agreeableness- High agreeableness score suggests that the individuals are friendly, compassionate, cooperative, well tempered, and can be sometimes perceived as submissive. Low agreeability suggests that individuals can be challenging, competitive, detached and can be sometimes perceived as untrustworthy (Goldberg, 1993).
  • Neuroticism- High neuroticism suggests tendency to be prone to anger, depression, anxiety, vulnerability and psychological stress. Low neuroticism suggests a calm, stable and well- adjusted individual (Goldberg, 1993).
  • Openness- High openness suggests that individual would be more appreciative toward art, adventure, emotions, unusual ideas, creativity and a number of experiences. High scores usually reflect the higher intellectual curiosity of individuals. Low scores suggest consistent and cautious behavior. They are usually perceived as closed minded and dogmatic people (Goldberg, 1993).
  • Extraversion- High scores suggest energetic, outgoing, attention seeking, talkative and loud behaviors. Individuals with lower scores prefer to be solitary, are reserved, shy and have reflective personalities (Goldberg, 1993).

The experience of understanding an individual from their perspective and thereby understanding the way they feel is known as empathy. Empathy is an experience that facilitates prosocial or helping behaviors (Graziano et al., 2007). The present report is about the relationship between empathy and the various Personality traits, mainly agreeableness, conscientiousness and extraversion.

The Big Five Model has been an effective way to explain differences between individuals in terms of behaviors and experiences; however, the relation between empathy and these personality traits are still not clearly understood and this is the reason for numerous research in this field. Empathy is a very important ability possessed by individuals, which effectively facilitates social interaction . However, optimal measurement of the emphatic processing of individuals is still unclear. A study by Melchers et al, (2016) was designed in order to investigate the relationship between empathy and the Big Five Personality factors from samples from four different countries, China, Germany, Spain and the United States of America. This study was conducted to find the association between personality factors and empathy from a cross cultural perspective. The results suggested that agreeableness was the most important predictor of empathy, conscientiousness was also important, but the other subscales showed no relevant relationship with empathy. According to the researchers, agreeableness was found to the best predictor for empathy as this dimension  mainly concerns interpersonal behavior and better social interactions. Individuals with low agreeableness score lack prosocial motivation or the affect of empathy and therefore do not report less empathy (Graziano et al., 2007). The results in this research that concerned the empathy and personality differences with respect to the countries did not show any particular trend and the analyses suggested that there were homogeneous associations across the different cultures. This therefore means that empathy can be successfully measured across cultures with the IRI and EQ questionnaires (Melchers et al., 2016).

Eunice Magalhaes, Patricio Costa and Manuel Joao Costa (2012) conducted a study to test the relationship between Personality traits and Empathy in a Portuguese Medical school conducted another study. A self-reported measure of Undergraduate students for empathy and the NEO FFI personality questionnaire were used. The results showed a significant and positive correlation but in lower magnitude between empathy JSPE-spv and the personality traits of agreeableness, conscientiousness and openness.  MANCOVA was conducted with Gender as a co-variate in order to clarify the relationship between the three dimensions and it was found that the there was a significant positive correlation between empathy and personality traits of agreeableness and openness but not for conscientiousness. Therefore, it was concluded that medical students with higher scores of agreeableness and openness to experience were more likely to have more empathy towards others. According to the researchers, it was an expected outcome, given that the attributes relating to both agreeableness and empathy included interpersonal skills like pro-social behavior and altruism. Therefore, medical students who are more agreeable would tend to understand the perspectives of the patient better and thereby have an improved communication ( Magalhaes, Costa &  Costa, 2012). The researches state that the association between empathy and openness was also expected as high openness scores suggests the predisposition to understand and meet new people and to be able to grasp  the emotional state of individuals sooner. There was however the researcher hypothesized no correlation between neuroticism and empathy, which was unexpected as a negative correlation between the two factors. However, the major limitations of their research were that they conducted the study on a small population, used self-reported measures.

Relationship between Empathy and Personality Traits

Graziano et al. (2007) conducted numerous studies to find out if agreeableness and empathy had any relationship. In one such study which he conducted on 622 students in Texas, the results showed that individuals with high agreeableness scores were more likely to risk various negative outcomes to help other people in both ordinary and extraordinary situations. It was found that people high on agreeableness scale would more readily risk their lives to save their friends as well as strangers. According to the researchers, helping is more closely related to prosocial emotions and various empathic concerns than to the personal distresses of the individuals. Also they have tried to explain why people low on agreeableness have low empathic feelings, according to them, there might be  possibility that interpersonal learning is less positive in comparison to their peers. They also found out in their studies that the induction for empathy increases even in people with low agreeableness, if the helping cost is low This means, if the stakes or risks are lower, individuals are more likely to lend a hand for help. However, low agreeable people definitely experience more conflict in their motives for helping other individuals unlike people with high agreeability (Graziano et al., 2007).

Another study conducted by a Victoria Del Barrio (2004) explored similar topic. The study was conducted on 832 Spanish adolescents and this study too had similar outcomes. It was found that Empathy had the strongest correlation to agreeableness and positive correlations with conscientiousness and openness was also observed. Empathy has been a central temperamental feature of the temperament of individuals since childhood and adolescence and a number of research shows that empathy has a positive correlation with the personality trait of agreeableness (Barrio, 2004).

In case of the present Data Set, Neo FFI Personality Scores and empathy scores of 90 individuals have been provided and after analysis it was found that there is a significant positive correlation between agreeableness and empathy, 0.399; a significant positive correlation between conscientiousness and empathy, 0.14 and significant negative correlations with neuroticism, extraversion and openness. It has been seen from past literature that there are numerous evidences suggesting a positive relationship between empathy and agreeableness. There can be and has been numerous explanations to such repeated results. It is obvious that there would be a positive correlation between agreeableness and empathy because agreeableness essentially suggests the capability of people to agree more to the surroundings while forming social bonds. People with high agreeableness score are usually more compassionate towards other people, they tend to understand why another person is behaving the way that they are, or how much of emotional pain the individual might be going through. Highly agreeable people are more cooperative and have the capability to handle situations with a lot of calmness and composure. These are the people who are mostly mistaken to be naïve or submissive, however, they just try to make others more comfortable. The phenomenon in which an individual is capable of seeing the situations from the other person’s perspective is called empathy. Empathic individuals have a predisposition towards pro-social behavior and past studies have shown that there are higher chances for highly agreeable people to risk their own selves to help others in ordinary as well as extraordinary situations. However, it has also been found that if the risk or cost of helping is less, people with low agreeableness would also agree to help, however they would face a lot more dilemma in making the decision than a person with high agreeableness would (Graziano et al., 2007).

Studies on Empathy and Personality Traits

 It has also been found that there is a low but positive correlation of empathy with conscientiousness. Highly conscientious individuals have the tendency to be very organized, dependable, disciplined and dutiful. These individuals usually have a plan of action and are very considerate about feelings of other people which maybe the reason for a positive correlation with empathy (Joireman et al., 2006). The relationship between conscientiousness and empathy has not been very clear in past literatures and further research in this field is required. Some Studies showed positive correlation however, some did not. Conscientiousness is usually high among young adults. Individuals with low conscientiousness are usually easy going, laid back and spontaneous in their behavior.

There has been a high negative correlation between empathy and neuroticism (-0.826), which is quite an expected result. Individuals with high scores of neuroticism have a lower threshold for tolerating stress and tend to get anxious, angry or stressed easily. These individuals have a tendency to experience negative emotions easily and can be highly unstable in terms of emotions. Individuals who find it difficult to manage their own emotions are not likely to empathize with other individuals. Even if they do, there are higher chances for them succumbing to negative emotional states. Individuals with high neuroticism have higher chances of falling into clinical depression. These individuals even perceive ordinary situations as highly stressful events and these emotionally heightened phases keep lasting for a long time. Therefore, people with higher neuroticism would definitely be unable to empathize with the feelings of other individuals as they already have a low threshold for stress tolerance. There are not many past literature relating neuroticism and empathy but there are studies that link neuroticism and Prosocial behavior negatively. A study conducted by Guo, Q., Sun, P., & Li, L (2018) was based entirely on theories about the effects of personality traits on essential outcomes of life, which adopted a number of analyses to figure out the various mechanisms in which neuroticism and Prosocial behavior are negatively related. The results of the study had a clear suggestion of negative relationship between prosocial behavior and neuroticism and the factors accounting for such an association might be lower social self-efficacy levels, Lower emotional intelligence, low empathic concern and unhealthy perspective taking. It was also found that Neuroticism can facilitate (Guo, Sun & Li, 2018).  Prosocial behavior by inducing high stress levels in individuals and if increasing the social self-efficacy and empathy can be elevated in highly neurotic individuals, they might behave prosocially too. Although Prosocial behavior and empathy are not interchangeable words, empathizing with a different person is definitely facilitates Prosocial behavior (Song & Si, 2017).

Conclusion

It can hence be concluded from the following report that, the present data set as well as past literature suggests that the main personality factor linked with empathy is agreeableness. Individuals who are more agreeable tend to be more compromising, understanding and try to understand the perspectives from the other person’s point of view. Another personality factor that can be positively associated with empathy according to the given data set is conscientiousness and although there is not much literary evidence, analysis of the data has shown a low but positive correlation between the two variables. Neuroticism is another personality factor which is worth mentioning as it has a high negative correlation with empathy. Like conscientiousness, the relationship between neuroticism and empathy require further research, however there have been studies which have hypothesized a negative relationship between the mention two variables, neuroticism and empathy.

References

Barrio, V. D., Aluja, A., & García, L. F. (2004). Relationship between empathy and the Big Five personality traits in a sample of Spanish adolescents. Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal, 32(7), 677-681.

Cobb-Clark, D. A., & Schurer, S. (2012). The stability of big-five personality traits. Economics Letters, 115(1), 11-15.

Goldberg, L. R. (1993). The structure of phenotypic personality traits. American psychologist, 48(1), 26.

Graziano, W. G., Habashi, M. M., Sheese, B. E., & Tobin, R. M. (2007). Agreeableness, empathy, and helping: A person× situation perspective. Journal of personality and social psychology, 93(4), 583.

Guo, Q., Sun, P., & Li, L. (2018). Why neurotic individuals are less prosocial? A multiple mediation analysis regarding related mechanisms. Personality and Individual Differences, 128, 55-61.

Magalhães, E., Costa, P., & Costa, M. J. (2012). Empathy of medical students and personality: evidence from the Five-Factor Model. Medical teacher, 34(10), 807-812.

Melchers, M. C., Li, M., Haas, B. W., Reuter, M., Bischoff, L., & Montag, C. (2016). Similar personality patterns are associated with empathy in four different countries. Frontiers in psychology, 7, 290.

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