Do today’s college students have less empathy than past generations?

A study from the University of Michigan says college students today show less empathy toward others compared with college students in decades before—and the researchers attribute this partly to the time they spend on social networks, USA Today reports. Sara Konrath, a researcher at the university’s Institute for Social Research, looked at 72 studies that gauged empathy among 14,000 college students in the past 30 years. She found that empathy has been declining, especially since 2000. The research finds that college students today show 40 percent less empathy vs. students in the 1980s and 1990s. The students are less likely to agree with statements such as “I often have tender, concerned feelings for people less fortunate than me” and “I sometimes try to understand my friends better by imagining how things look from their perspective.” The study did not evaluate why students are less empathetic, but Konrath says one reason may be that people are having fewer face-to-face interactions, communicating instead through social media such as Facebook and Twitter. “Empathy is best activated when you can see another person’s signal for help,” Konrath says. Another cause may be changing expectations about success. Since the 1980s, there has been a steady trend in people feeling more stressed about trying to “get ahead,” Konrath says…

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