Results from study finds Middle Eastern countries are compassionate to others

by Ray Clancy on October 18, 2016

When you move to live in a new country friendly locals can help with the settling in process but the amount of empathy varies from country to country, according to new research.

The most empathetic country is named as Ecuador, followed by Saudi Arabia, Peru, Denmark and the United Arab Emirates in research from the Universities of Michigan, Chicago and Indiana in the first study of its kind.

mecca-saudi arabiaThe rest of the top 10 was made up of Korea, the United States, Taiwan, Cost Rica and Kuwait, indicating that countries that might appear to have quite strict regimes and be associated with aggression and wars turn out to be more kindly.

The least empathetic country was Lithuania and seven out of the bottom 10 were in Eastern Europe.

Researchers surveyed more than 104,000 people from 63 countries, measuring their compassion for others and tendency to imagine others’ point of view and they said they were surprised by the results.

With the Middle East often tied to aggression and war with other countries, the study’s lead author William Chopik, said that the result may have been affected by not distinguishing between empathy for people in other countries, or empathy in one’s own country.

He also believes that some countries, such as the United States may be experiencing more of a focus on the individual than seen in the past. A previous study from the team suggested this may be the result of the rise of social media, an increase in violence and bullying, changing family practices, and many more factors.

‘These changes might ultimately cause us to leave our close relationships behind. People are struggling more than ever to form meaningful close relationships. People may think of the United States as an empathetic and generous giant but that might be changing,’ said Chopik, an assistant professor of psychology at Michigan State University.

The latest study is the first to look at empathy on a country by country level and while it only grabbed a snapshot of what empathy looks like at one moment in time, Chopik noted that cultures are constantly changing.

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