When (not) to empathize: The differential effects of combined emotion recognition and empathic concern on client satisfaction across professions

Myriam N. Bechtoldt*, Bianca Beersma, Gerben A. van Kleef

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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Abstract

Previous research found inconsistent associations between individuals’ emotion recognition ability and their work-related outcomes. This research project focuses on client satisfaction as a core work-related outcome. We argue that service settings differentially affect clients’ emotional goals, activating either socio-affective goals or goals targeting cognitive clarity. In service settings activating clients’ socio-affective goals, clients are expected to respond favorably if service providers combine emotion recognition with high empathic concern; in service settings activating clients’ cognitive clarity goals, clients are expected to respond more favorably if service providers combine emotion recognition with low empathic concern. Study 1 confirmed that service settings differentially affect clients’ emotional goals, with hairdressing settings activating socio-affective goals and psychotherapy settings triggering cognitive clarity goals. Accordingly, hairdressing clients were more satisfied if service providers combined emotion-recognition ability with high trait empathic concern (Study 2). Conversely, in the context of psychotherapy, clients were more satisfied if therapists’ combined emotion-recognition ability with low trait empathic concern (Study 3). Thus, service contexts moderate the effect of affective responses to clients’ emotional signals in a predictable manner.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)112–129
Number of pages18
JournalMotivation and Emotion
Volume43
Issue number1
Early online date28 Sep 2018
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 15 Feb 2019

Keywords

  • Client satisfaction
  • Emotion recognition
  • Empathic concern
  • Social sharing of emotions

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