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date: 23 November 2020

Abstract and Keywords

Empathy is widely recognized to have multiple facets, both affective and cognitive. This chapter reviews evidence regarding the effect on social relationships of two of these facets: compassion and perspective-taking. The focus is on three domains: smooth social functioning/relationship quality, social support, and responses to partner transgression. Evidence indicates that perspective-taking is consistently related to measures of relationship quality, including global relationship satisfaction and interpersonal hostility. In contrast, compassion displays weaker and less consistent associations. A similar pattern is found for social support; perspective-taking has a consistent beneficial effect on the provision of various types of relationship support; the effects of compassion are weaker. A different pattern emerges for reactions to partner transgression. By far the strongest predictor of forgiveness is experiencing compassion for the transgressor. Finally, the limited evidence from studies examining these issues cross-culturally suggests that these patterns hold in non-American samples as well.

Keywords: empathy, sympathy, perspective-taking, compassion, social support, relationship satisfaction, hostility, forgiveness

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