Help-seekers and potential helpers often experience an “empathy gap” – an inability to understand each other’s unique perspectives. Both parties are concerned about their reputation, self-esteem, and relationships, but these concerns differ in ways that lead to misinterpretation of the other party’s actions, and, in turn, missed opportunities for cooperation. In this article, we review research that describes the role-specific concerns of helpers and help-seekers. We then review studies of emotional perspective-taking, which can help explain why help-seekers and helpers often experience empathy gaps. We go on to discuss recent work that illustrates the consequences of empathy gaps between helpers and help-seekers—social prediction errors that prevent helping and misguided intentions that can lead to unhelpful help. Finally, we discuss some promising directions for future research.
Available at: http://works.bepress.com/vanessa-bohns/38/