Four studies explored whether perspective-taking and empathy would be differentially effective in mixed-motive competitions depending on whether the critical skills for success were more cognitively or emotionally based. Study 1 demonstrated that individual differences in perspective-taking, but not empathy, predicted increased distributive and integrative performance in a multiple-round war game that required a clear understanding of an opponent's strategic intentions. Conversely, both measures and manipulations of empathy proved more advantageous than perspective-taking in a relationship-based coalition game that required identifying the strength of interpersonal connections (Studies 2–3). Study 4 established a key process: perspective-takers were more accurate in cognitive understanding of others, whereas empathy produced stronger accuracy in emotional understanding. Perspective-taking and empathy were each useful but in different types of competitive, mixed-motive situations — their success depended on the task-competency match. These results demonstrate when to use your head versus your heart to achieve the best outcomes for oneself.

D. Gilin, W. Maddux, J. Carpenter, and Adam Galinsky
Journal Article
Publication Date
Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin

Full Citation

Gilin, D., W. Maddux, J. Carpenter, and Adam Galinsky
. “When to use your head and when to use your heart: The differential value of perspective-taking versus empathy in competitive interactions.”
Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin
, (January 01, 2013):