College Kids Lacking Empathy, Study Says

The study, which was conducted at the University of Michigan, found that college students are less likely to understand the emotions of others than their age group’s predecessors, MSNBC reports. The test group scored 40 percent lower on an empathy test than participants in the same study 20 and 30 years ago. Results are based on 72 studies of 14,000 American college students between 1979 to 2009, wMSNBC says.

“We found the biggest drop in empathy after the year 2000,” Sara Konrath, a researcher at the University of Michigan’s Institute for Social Research, tells MSNBC.

There are multiple theories on why college kids today lack empathy. Some blame the media (who doesn’t these days?). Some blame the Internet and social media. Another one broached in this study was today’s “hypercompetitive, 24-hour culture.” What do you think it could be?

College Kids Lacking Empathy, Study Says

They needed a study to determine that? Heck, I could have told you that, just hang around a college campus for half an hour and see it with your own eyes.

I wonder if it has anything with the rise in autism-spectrum disorders.

There are tests that test your empathy/vs systems, and people with Aspergers/autism/or tending in that direction tend to score very low on empathy and high on systems.

Maybe people are just socializing less. A study on college kids in 1979 would have been studying kids who were born ~1960, when TV wasn’t worth watching, there were no computer games (especially no violent first person shooters), there was no internet, and people had to socialize a lot as there was nothing else to do. Maybe people are more isolated and individualistic today in part as a result of these things.

“College kids”? This blog entry was clearly written with bias.

The preferred term is “college students”. Except for the rare 16-17 yr old (usually freshman), all are legal young adults.

Perhaps if our culture afforded these young adults with greater respect and empathy, they would in-turn find the same capacities to show to others.

I think this is another case of finding exactly what you were looking for.

A good point too, another report on the study:

Other recent studies have shown mixed results on the character of today’s youth. For instance, one study of more than 450,000 high-school seniors born at different time periods showed today’s youth are no more self-centered than their parents were at their age.

They include the link to the empathy survey as well, which you can take if you like,

Here is the University of Michigan Institute for Social Research news entry.

I think that’s more the reason. I know my mom told me once that in southern Baltimore, people used to be out in the local park all the time during the summer (and at night when it was cool). But, then came air conditioning, and everyone was inside theatres, libraries, and eventually their own homes. So, that kind of started the split up of society. In the 60s, transportation was much more available and people moved out further from each other. ‘Women’s Rights’ also effectively encouraged all women to have careers (regardless if they were currently raising their kids). In the 80s, you had “latch key kids”, or kids that came home to no parents. In the meanwhile, you had all sorts of conviences come along (in fact, it reads like a book on “How to Destroy a Society” -

Microwaves - just tell the kids to pop in a pizza.
Computer Games - Kids sit and play for hours on end (not every game was multi-player, either)
TV in every room - Now family is split up into their own rooms and don’t talk to each other much except for the weekends.
Hundreds of TV channels - So many choices that it’ll be bound to keep them occupied.
Phones (including cell phones and iPhones) - Gives the false security of being connected even if you live 500 miles away.

Then there’s the work culture that says “You’ve gotta keep moving up! You’ve gotta 'compete with the Joneses!”. Because of that, there’s no time to have any kids. I think this is the reason for lack of empathy - there’s very little children for kids to interact with during the very early years (0-5), and there’s very little family time. They’re effectively “abandoned” (kind of a strong word, but it’s like virtual abandonment if you add up the amount of time without family around).

Then there’s the big McMansions people buy, and their kids (since now they only have 1-3 kids) have a room to themselves, more than enough bathrooms in the house that they don’t have to share or wait in line. Essentially entitlement.

“Some blame the media (who doesn’t these days?. Some blame the Internet and social media.” I’m sure that the media, the internet, and the lack of social interaction all have an effect. This generation probably grew up watching violence being perpetrated on TV, and being desensitized to it. Youtube videos of fights or people being hurt are posted for other people to laugh at. When tragedy strikes, our first instinct is not to help but to get the video. We’ve becoming a voyeuristic society with a lack of real human interaction. Of course there’s a lack of empathy. Just my off the cuff opinion.

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