Perspective taking and the biopsychosocial model of challenge and threat: Effects of imagine-other and imagine-self perspective taking on active goal pursuit
Buffone, Anneke Edburga Katharina
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The present research aimed at integrating research on prosocial motivation, Batson's work on perspective-taking induced distress and empathy (Batson, Early, & Salvarani, 1997; Batson, Fultz, & Schoenrade, 1987), and a psychophysiological model of active goal pursuit, the biopsychosocial (BPS) model of challenge and threat (for a review see Seery, 2013). Specifically, I examined the effect of a perspective-taking manipulation on a subsequent prosocial motivated performance situation: a prosocial speech. I also examined self-rated and coder-rated helping effectiveness, as well as coder ratings of nonverbal supportiveness and likelihood of providing aid as further potential outcomes of the two forms of perspective taking. The main prediction was that imagine-self perspective taking (ISPT) induces a pattern of physiological threat while imagine-other perspective taking (IOPT) and remaining objective (no perspective taking) leads to relatively greater challenge. I also expected to find that ISPT compared to IOPT or remaining objective would lead to relative threat and in turn to reduced helping effectiveness and reduced likelihood of helping. 212 participants (83 women) engaged in ISPT, IOPT, or remaining objective when reading the statement of a (fictional) participant, Kylie, who disclosed a personal hardship. Then participants recorded a video speech to give Kylie advice on her situation. Finally participants were asked if they would stay after the "official end" of the study and help Kylie further by giving advice in writing. I found that, as predicted, ISPT compared to IOPT or remaining objective resulted in relative threat, whereas IOPT resulted in marginally greater relative challenge compared to imagine-self perspective taking and remaining objective during the speech task. My hypotheses about the perspective-taking-challenge & threat link to predict helping efficacy and extended in-person helping were not supported. There was some limited evidence that threat is generally associated with lower coder ratings of nonverbal supportiveness. Implications and future directions of these findings are discussed further below.