Graduation Year


Date of Submission


Document Type

Open Access Senior Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts



Reader 1

Shana Levin

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This article is a literature review of how the context of group dynamics, power relations, and counter-dominance change our understanding of empathy towards outgroups. A large focus of current psychological research around empathy aims to better understand empathy in improving intergroup relations. However, many of the current studies measure the perspectives of the majority (high-power) groups, while failing to take into account the differences in the perspectives of the minority (low-power) groups, for whom empathy does not predict positive intergroup attitudes. In order to look at the importance of group dynamics and power relations in understanding empathy, I analyze different studies both in the interpersonal and intergroup contexts. Furthermore, when analyzing these studies within the different types of empathy contexts, I illustrate the prominent role of counter-dominance in explaining why empathy relates to positive attitudes toward subordinate groups but negative attitudes toward dominant groups. Additionally, I use counter-dominance to explain differences and similarities in findings when examining different intergroup empathy contexts such as group empathy and attitudinal empathy. In explaining these similarities and differences, I illustrate how counter-dominance is important to understanding empathy in the context of intergroup relations due to its ability to positively predict positive attitudes towards low-power groups and negatively predict attitudes towards high-powered groups.

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