Date of Award

Spring 2020

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Communication & Theatre Arts


Lifespan and Digital Communication

Committee Director

E. James Baesler

Committee Member

Thomas J. Socha

Committee Member

Gary A. Beck


This study examined the experience of being listened to with empathy for two lifespan cohorts, using survey methodology to collect qualitative and quantitative data from 223 emerging adults (ages 18–25) and 61 middle-aged adults (ages 35–64). While both cohorts described the impact of empathic listening with similar positive themes, including feeling cared for and happy, chi-square analyses revealed statistically significant differences between the two groups in the frequencies of nine of the twenty-seven themes (33.3%). Independent t-tests also identified statistically significant differences in perceived empathy based on the listeners’ age cohort. First, respondents rated middle-aged listeners higher on the Responding subscale of the Active-Empathic Listening Scale–Partner-Report Single-Event (AELS–PRSE), suggesting that middle-aged listeners are more empathically responsive than their emerging adult counterparts. Additionally, the AELS–PRSE correlated positively with the Feeling-with Scale, reflecting prevailing definitions of empathy that include a listener’s feeling-with state, and suggesting that future research of empathic listening should include feeling-with items. Finally, the AELS–PRSE correlated positively and strongly with the Caring Scale, suggesting that future research of empathic listening should including caring items in order to clarify the currently contested role of caring in empathic responsiveness.


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