Secondary Outcomes (explanation)
Distress State and Negative State
Although the conditions are intended to increase Empathic State, the conditions may unintentionally increase/decrease other emotions, in particular the distress one might feel, and/or sadness one might feel, at seeing messages about children who are ill. The Distress State and Negative State scales are intended to detect this, should it occur.
Principle of Care State
Likewise, the conditions are not intended to increase thinking about moral principles to help other people. The PoC State scale is included to check this.
Inclusion of Other in the Self
Some psychologists (e.g., Cialdini et al., 1997) have argued that conditions to increase empathic state instead increase the participant’s experience of oneness with people in the message (in our case, a child in hospital): “they perceive more of themselves in the other” (p. 483). The Inclusion of Other in the Self measurement is intended to measure the extent to which this does, or does not, happen.
Interpersonal Reactivity Index
The IRI has three seven-item sub-scales measuring dispositional tendencies to react with Empathic Concern, Personal Distress, and cognitive Perspective-Taking (Davis, 1983).
As mentioned, the IRI is a dispositional measure, so the responses to its items are not conceptually supposed to be influenced by emotional state. Nevertheless, the conditions may raise the salience of the seven EC-items as the participant reads them and cause measured ECi to move. Therefore, we will check to see if the Empathic Concern items register any variation across conditions.
If the primary outcome Empathic State varies as a function of conditions as planned, it will be the preferred outcome measure. However, if Empathic State does not vary as much as planned, and Empathic Concern improves the measurement of changes evoked by the conditions, we will combine the measures. Details are in the Measurement and Analysis Plan.
Personal Distress provides measurement of whether the conditions change measurement of another emotional response disposition. For example, if the conditions change (dispositional) Empathic Concern, but do not change (dispositional) Personal Distress, that would be an indication that the Empathic Concern measure, although intended to be dispositional, did register a change in empathic state, whereas another emotion-disposition measure did not.
The conditions may also increase Perspective Taking, to the extent that they increase a cognitive (rather than emotional) empathic reaction, and the extent to which the dispositional PT items pick up such a change in state. In this case, because of the close theoretical relationship between affective and cognitive empathic reactions, we will combine Perspective Taking into the outcome measure. Details are in the Measurement and Analysis Plan.
Principle of care - dispositional
Measurement of the (dispositional) endorsement of a moral principle that one should help people in need is at a more advanced stage (Ottoni-Wilhelm and Bekkers, 2010; Bekkers and Ottoni-Wilhelm, 2016) than are state measures of the principle. Therefore we ae including measurement of the dispositional PoC to have a second method to detect any change in conscious thinking about moral principles to help.
An attention-check will be used to detect participants who are not reading the questions, but simply clicking through the questions to quickly get to the end of the session.
All participants (even those randomized into the control group) are asked whether they saw a video, an e-mail, or only a brief description of the children’s hospital.
Participants randomized into the video condition are asked the approximate age of the child featured in the video. Participants randomized into the e-mail condition are asked the approximate age of the child featured in the e-mail.