Macquarie University
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People do not empathise and help others based on facial resemblance

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posted on 2022-03-29, 00:59 authored by Andrejs Enriquez
Altruism may have evolved through kin selection by maximising inclusive fitness, so people may have evolved to preferentially help kin over non-kin. Previous research suggests that empathy may be one of the main contributors to helping behaviour, and that people trust others who look similar to themselves. However, whether this leads to helping, and whether empathy towards others changes according to their physical similarity remains unknown. The aim of the thesis is to examine the effect of within-race self-similarity on cognitive empathy, emotional empathy, and helping. The faces of 56 Caucasian participants (27 male, 27 female; aged 18-29) were secretly recorded responding to happy and sad video clips. Happy and sad composite faces (validated by a rating task) were morphed to look similar and dissimilar to each participant. A total of 15 male and 18 female participants returned to make judgements of each face, including how well they recognise the faces’ emotional expression, how much they feel that emotion themselves, and whether they chose to help people with a similar or a dissimilar face in a low risk scenario. There was no significant difference for either cognitive empathy, emotional empathy, or helping similar compared to dissimilar faces. There was also no significant difference in cognitive compared to emotional empathy for the preference of similar over dissimilar faces. Nor did a self-preference in cognitive empathy nor a self-preference in emotional empathy significantly predict a self-preference in helping. This study has demonstrated that empathy and helping are not affected by self-resemblance, and offers an alternative way that kin selection functions in humans.


Table of Contents

Introduction -- The current study -- General discussion -- References -- Appendices.


Bibliography: pages 85-95 Empirical thesis.

Awarding Institution

Macquarie University

Degree Type

Thesis MRes


MRes, Macquarie University, Faculty of Human Sciences, Department of Psychology

Department, Centre or School

Department of Psychology

Year of Award


Principal Supervisor

Ian Stephen


Copyright Andrejs Enriquez 2017. Copyright disclaimer:




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