Dissertations and Theses @ UNI


Open Access Thesis


Empathy; Political candidates--Psychological aspects;


America has been more divided along partisan lines in recent years (Pew Research Center, 2019). One major factor contributing to this polarization is a lack of understanding regarding why members of political out-groups maintain their beliefs. The simple act of perspective-taking may help to counter the negative effects of this ideological division. Although the benefits of perspective-taking are well documented (Batson, Polycarpou et al., 1997), less is known regarding perceived perspective-taking or perceptions of perspective-takers. In this study, I explore whether the benefits of perspective-taking can be achieved by witnessing a member of the political in-group take the perspective of a member of the political out-group. 297 Prolific participants read one of three fabricated transcripts between two gubernatorial candidates with the independent variable being which candidate (if either) reported taking the perspective of their opponent. Participants then reported their attitudes toward the candidates, and the degree to which they felt the political parties understood each other, along with a measure for affective and ideological polarization. This study utilized a 2 (political orientation: liberal vs conservative) x 3 (perspective-taking: Republican vs Democrat vs control) experimental design and found that, whereas Democratic candidates were better liked by voters regardless of partisanship when they took the perspectives of their opponents, Republican candidates were not. Perspective-taking also influenced felt understanding and perceptions of ideological polarization. The results of this study suggest that it would behoove Democratic candidates to take the perspective of their opponents, while Republicans may not necessarily be perceived more favorably if they do the same.

Year of Submission


Degree Name

Master of Arts


Department of Psychology

First Advisor

Nicholas Schwab, Chair, Thesis Committee

Date Original


Object Description

1 PDF file (ix, 80 pages)



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