Empathy is generally known to be the ability to synthesize someone else’s emotions or experience. This not only involves the inferred experience of another’s emotional state but also a degree of recognition and understanding of this emotional state (Andseason 2010). This recognition is done through discriminating between different emotions and labeling them correctly and has somewhat to do with the individuals emotional intelligence (Andseason 2010).
This ability to recognize emotion from facial expressions is partially inborn and serves an important social function and it has been theorized that empathy is an important factor in the moral development and reasoning of an individual (Hoffman 2000). It has also been suggested that humans are biologically disposed not only to sending emotional messages through the facial expression, but also to receiving them (Andseason 2010).
Some find this easier to do than others and past studies have shown that higher empathetic people have a greater sensitivity to facial expressions as opposed to people with low empathy who were unable to differentiate between happy ND sad faces (Dimmers, Andseason & Thunders 2011). Furthermore, it has been shown that empathetic levels determine someone’s emotional recognition capabilities but not the driving factors behind this. Many studies have noted that there is a distinct difference between sex and empathy.
Across many cultures it is scientifically proven that females have a greater ability than males to perceive facial expressions. This is linked with women’s greater empathy, greater expressiveness, greater practice and greater tendency to accommodate others (Hoffman 1997). Past research has also shown that women have an advantage in interpreting and decoding verbal information as opposed to men (Hall, Hutting, & Morgan 2009). This is said to do with the idea that women pay more attention to the eyes which enables then to greater ‘read’ others emotions.
Previous investigations have also shown that the responding rate of women is also quicker and more correct when identifying different expressions (Hall, Hutting, & Morgan 2009). Studies have shown that emotional recognition, empathy and personality are all interrelated aspects as they all seem to correlate with one another to some agree. It is suggested that empathy is strongly linked to the five factor model of personality, however these links have not yet been well described (del Barrio, Alcoa & Garcia 2004).
In terms of this study and previous studies personality is defined in terms Of the five factor model Of personality created by Goldberg as it is the generally accepted fundamental dimensions of human personality. Following this model, Neurotics, Extroversion, Openness to Experience, Agreeableness, and Conscientiousness are the basic traits of personality (Del Barrio et al. 2004). These traits are associated with efferent bipolar and unpopular adjectives known as the Mini-Marker scale (Saucier 1994).
These Mini-Markers are used in many studies to assess the five factor model of personality as accurately as possible (Saucier 1994). There is a clear interaction between emotional empathy and perception of emotions with the five factor model of personality and this study will be extending off the findings of Del Barrio et all’s (2004) on a sample of Spanish students. Del Barrio et all’s (2004) findings provided evidence that some people differ in how well people are able to perceive and recognize others motions in relation to their type of personality.
The purpose of this study is to examine whether emotion recognition and empathy are associated with particular personality traits (in relation to the five factor model of personality) in Australian University students.