Year of Award

2017

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Type

Master of Arts (MA)

Department or School/College

Psychology

Committee Chair

David Schuldberg

Commitee Members

David Schuldberg, Christine Fiore, Ryan Tolleson-Knee, John Hunt

Keywords

AIRI, empathy, Interpersonal Reactivity Index, schizotypy, schizotypal traits, schizophrenia, subjective experience

Publisher

University of Montana

Subject Categories

Clinical Psychology

Abstract

The elaborate and multidimensional systems that are involved in the personal and subjective experience of empathy are largely unexplored. Nevertheless, when empathy is measured as a static trait there is considerable evidence that individuals diagnosed with schizophrenia and schizotypy demonstrate altered and reduced empathic abilities respectively (Thirioux, 2014). The aim of this study was to investigate the effect that the context of reading literary fiction has on a portion of the process of empathic responding in relation to schizotypal traits, taking into consideration personal factors including current mood. A new measure for the use of momentary assessment of empathy was developed and tested based on the IRI (Davis, 1980) called the AIRI (Adapted Interpersonal Reactivity Index). Psychometric analyses indicate that AIRI is an adequate measure of empathy, particularly for the use of real-time data collection. The internal consistencies of the AIRI scales are comparable to those of the IRI, and in general AIRI scales are correlated with similar IRI scales and with the TEQ as expected. The AIRI Perspective Taking scale has equally low correlations with the Hogan Empathy Scale as the corresponding IRI scale. Results include that, as predicted, the participants’ SPQ total scores are positively associated with the Personal Distress scale of the IRI and are not correlated with the IRI Empathic Concern Scale of the IRI. However, contrary to predications, the participants’ SPQ total scores were not significantly associated with the Perspective Taking scale of the IRI (although the association was negative, as predicted), and the participants’ total SPQ scores were positively correlated with the AIRI Fantasy scale (contrary to prediction). Although there was no control group, there is some evidence that reading a fictional narrative increased Perspective Taking scale scores on the IRI, and results showed a decrease on Fantasy Scale and Personal Distress items on the IRI. Using a piece of literary fictional narrative as a stimulus to elicit empathy holds promise for future studies and suggests including literature, the arts, and the assessment of subjective experiences of schizotypal populations, as the current study’s results showed the AIRI to be more highly correlated with the participants SPQ score when compared to the original IRI. We are hopeful that the adapted version of the IRI developed here, when used with real-time elicitation of empathy using a fictional literary narrative, should help to understand state empathy better, highlighting the importance of context, mood, and personal experience in those with varying levels of schizotypal traits, as well as being useful in other research on empathy.

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© Copyright 2017 Christa "Anahata" Neuman 3342653