Individuals’ empathic responses to exonerees’ emotional and physical suffering
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In exploring avenues to combat the stigma exonerees experience, a study was conducted to examine whether exposure to an exoneree’s suffering increases empathy and helping, and whether different empathic responses (e.g., emotions) result from the type of suffering witnessed. Participants were randomly assigned to three conditions: emotional suffering, physical suffering, or control. In all conditions, participants watched a video clip of an exoneree talking about his case. In the two suffering conditions, participants then read and imagined the suffering (emotional or physical) that an exoneree might experience. All participants were then asked about their emotions and helping behaviours. Suffering type did not show the same impact as has been found in previous research. Instead, imaging the exoneree’s suffering – regardless of it being emotional or physical – led to greater empathic responses. The findings are discussed in terms of Stellar et al. (2020)’s work and increasing support for exonerees.