Research has shown that feeling empathy sometimes leads to compassion fatigue and sometimes to compassion satisfaction. In three studies, participants recalled an instance when they felt empathy in order to assess the role time perspective plays in how empathizers perceive the consequences of empathy. Study 1 revealed that college students perceive empathy as having more negative consequences in the short term, but more positive consequences in the long term. Study 2 showed that service industry professionals perceive the consequences of feeling empathy for customers who felt bad as less negative, and the consequences of feeling empathy for people who felt good as less positive, in the long as opposed to the short term. Because Studies 1 and 2 confounded time perspective with event specificity a third study was conducted in which event specificity was held constant across time perspectives. The same pattern of results emerged. The results of these studies indicate that perceptions of the effects of feeling empathy, whether positive or negative, become less extreme over time. These findings shed light on the relation between empathy and compassion fatigue and satisfaction by suggesting that situations that initially are experienced as stressful can over time make the empathizer stronger.


Copyright: © 2018 The Authors This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/).


Routledge/Taylor & Frances

Date of publication

Fall 10-15-2018



Persistent identifier


Document Type


Included in

Psychology Commons