The Fox and the Lion: Investigating Associations between Empathy and Emotion Perspective-taking in Aesop’s Fables

Psychology 13 (4):482-513 (2022)
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Empathy is essential in story comprehension as it requires understanding of the emotions and intentions of the characters. We evaluated the sensitivity of an emotional perspective-taking task using Aesop’s Fables in relation to empathy. Participants (N = 301) were presented with 15 short fables and were asked to rate the intensity of the emotions they would feel (anger, sadness, disgust, fear, surprise, joy, trust, and anticipation) by adopting the perspective of one of the characters (offender, victim) or the observer’s perspective. A data-driven approach revealed that participants’ responses were aligned with the characters’ intentions, suggesting successful emotional perspective-taking. Participants sympathized with the victim rather than the offender, demonstrating affective sharing processes. Further, participants with higher empathy scores exhibited stronger negative emotions from the victim’s perspective, independently of their level of distress. Our task was not influenced by gender effects. We suggest that the Aesop’s Fables task could provide an indirect instrument to study empathy

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Evangelos D. Protopapadakis
National and Kapodistrian University of Athens


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