A new study from researchers at Michigan State University has ranked the globe’s nations by empathy, or the ability to put oneself in someone else's shoes. According to the study, Americans in recent decades have been shifting their focus more from others to the individual, which may explain why the country placed 7th overall on the list, according to a news release.

Ecuador was the most empathetic country, followed in order by Saudi Arabia, Peru, Denmark, United Arab Emirates, Korea, the United States, Taiwan, Costa Rica, and Kuwait. Meanwhile, Lithuania was named the least empathetic, according to a news release by Michigan State University.

Researchers examined data from an online survey about empathy completed by more than 104,000 people from around the world. Overall, 63 countries were ranked in the study because nations with small sample sizes were excluded. Participants were measured by their compassion for others and tendencies to imagine others' points of view.

"These changes (in American attitudes) might ultimately cause us to leave our close relationships behind," said lead study author William Chopik, in the MSU release. "People are struggling more than ever to form meaningful close relationships. So, sure, the United States is seventh on the list, but we could see that position rise or fall depending on how our society changes in the next 20-50 years."

Chopik said U.S. citizens have experienced a shift in their thinking, particularly as it related to parenting and other values. The country's reputation as being kind and generous may also change as priorities and values change.

This study is the first to examine empathy on a country-by-country basis, the release noted.

Empathy by counrty Photo courtesy of Michigan State University

Source: Chopik W, O’Brien E, Konrath S. Is America Still An ‘Empathetic And Gentle Giant?’ Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology. 2016.

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