Skip to main content
  1. Life
  2. Health & Fitness
  3. Holistic Health

Commentary: Empathic anger spurs participation, study shows

See also

At Appalachian State University, a look at volunteerism yielded a new result: anger is good.

Evolutionary psychology pinpoints empathic, cooperative group activity as a key to group survival. Everyone knows about the survival of the fittest when it comes to individuals but because groups of individuals need other groups to survive, empathy is in the mix.

But that's not the only factor that is at work in research from Robert Bringle, a professor at Appalachian State. He and his students are presenting their findings today at the British Psychological Society annual conference in Birmingham, UK.

Bringle was quoted on ScienceDaily online:

"Although there are many reasons why individuals help, empathy is prominent. Empathy occurs when an individual has a similar response to a suffering person and this is usually sadness. Empathic sadness motivates a person to help in order to alleviate the other person's suffering and to alleviate one's own discomfort."

To measure the response, his research created two questionnaires. Study 1 asked 132 participants to report their empathic anger, finding that those who had high scores for it were more apt to show public participation as change-agents. What's more, they tended to choose change-oriented volunteering rather than charitable work.

Study 2, on the basis of 152 participants, showed that those who scored high on empathic anger didn't display aggression. Instead, they didn't go along to get along with discriminatory policies, and they disapproved of unequal treatment of groups.

Bringle noted that his research and the new questionnaires were primarily interested in what makes empathy invoke anger. The research concluded that what he calls empathic anger is most likely when participants see unfairness as the basis for suffering. But Bringle also notes that the intensity of empathy is greater when it includes anger and leads to more than ordinary volunteering.

Linda Chalmer Zemel is the publisher and editor of the literary journal, "Person, Place, Thing." She also writes the Buffalo Books column, and she teaches at SUNY Buffalo State College.



  • ESPYS party
    Athletes and celebrities hit the red carpet at Body at the ESPYS party
    Today's Buzz
  • Using metalic paint
    Metallic paint can be used to refinish furniture or to create the illusion of a larger space
    5 Photos
  • Gardening
    Have you ever started a garden and found a lone tomato straggler in with the strawberries?
    7 Photos
  • Adopt a shelter cat
    Ten great reasons to adopt a shelter cat: Just ask Willie Nelson's family
    9 Photos
  • Chikungunya virus
    Health news: Chikungunya virus has hit a man in Florida
    5 Photos
  • Oaks Spa
    Just keep moving is theme at Oaks at Ojai, California’s primo budget spa
    6 Photos