“I Am So Angry I Could . . . Help!” The nature of Empathic Anger
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Empathy is widely viewed as a precursor to civic engagement, a mediator of other responses during civic engagement, and an outcome resulting from civic engagement. However, empathic sadness is can be biased toward helping a lone victim, a member of an in-group, a person who is physically nearby, and an individual who is personally identified. Alternatively, empathic anger occurs when an observer experiences anger, rather than sadness, on behalf of a victim as the basis for inferring social injustice and for taking action. Empathic anger represents an untapped dimension of motivation that is not captured within other approaches to motives for civic engagement. This article details three studies which found that those reporting higher empathic anger were altruistic, not aggressive, oriented toward advocacy rather than charitable service, nonprejudicial, endorsed a social justice perspective, and active in communities outside (and independent) of campus activities. Implications for future research on motives for civic engagement are presented as well as implications for designing service-learning courses to promote empathic anger as a basis for action directed at social justice issues.