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Publication Date

Spring 2013

Degree Type

Thesis - Campus Access Only

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)




Arlene Asuncion


Compassion, Culture, Ethnicity, Guilt

Subject Areas



This thesis sought to explore the interrelationship of compassion, culture, and ethnicity on the attribution of guilt. Two broad research questions guided the current research. The first research question addressed whether the experience of compassion depended on the cultural underpinnings of independent or interdependent tendencies. The overall goal was to target the cultural underpinnings of felt compassion. A main effect of culture by felt compassion was predicted such that interdependent participants would be more sensitive than independent participants to compassion stimuli. This research question was constructed on the notion that interdependent people practiced collectivistic actions that fostered a need to care for others, thereby guiding a stronger sense of compassion. However, evidence for the influence of culture on compassion was not found.

The second research question focused on the possibility that if cultural differences in felt compassion were found, then an effect on the attribution of guilt would be detected. In other words, this research question argued that if cultural influences in compassion were captured (i.e., interdependent participants were more compassionate than independent participants), then the likelihood of perceiving an outgroup member as having made an immoral decision would not only depend on the cultural tendencies of the participants but also on ethnic cues of the culprit. Possible reasons for the unsuccessful attempt to establish the cultural underpinnings of compassion that directly affected the investigation on the attribution of guilt are discussed.