Spectator Sports as Context for Examining Observers' Agreeableness, Social Identification, and Empathy in a High-Stakes Conflict Situation.
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In a high-stakes conflict or dilemma situation, observers often feel empathy for one side versus the other. Using a high-profile conflict situation in a world-renowned spectator sport (the US Open) as context, the authors of this study examined the roles of personality and social-cognitive factors, specifically agreeableness and social identification, on empathic concern towards three individuals (a focal actor or instigator, a target, and an "innocent" bystander) involved in an emotionally charged conflict situation. Results showed direct and indirect effects of agreeableness on identification with the focal actor and empathic concern towards the individuals involved in the conflict situation. Participants' social-cognitive processes of identification with the focal actor or instigator fully mediated the effect of personality trait of agreeableness on empathic concern towards the focal actor, whereas agreeableness was directly related to empathic concern towards the target and the bystander without (full) mediation by social identification. Gender differences were found with women reporting higher empathic concern and identification towards the female focal actor and lower empathic concern towards the male target in the conflict situation, suggesting potential automatic or implicit in-group bias. Study results highlight the complex integration of personality and social-cognitive processes, including intersectionality of social identities, in the dynamics of empathic reactions during high-stakes and emotionally charged conflict situations.