Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait are among the most empathetic countries in the world, according to a new study.
Researchers from three American universities surveyed more than 104,000 people from 63 countries to measure their compassion and tendency to imagine the point of view of others.
The responses revealed that Ecuador was the most empathetic country in the world followed by Saudi Arabia in second.
The United Arab Emirates took fifth place and Kuwait was ranked 10th.
Dr William Chopik, an assistant professor of psychology at Michigan State University who led the study alongside staff from the University of Chicago and Indiana University, expressed some surprise at the presence of the Gulf countries.
He said researchers had assumed the three would rank lower for empathy given the long history of aggression and wars in the Middle East.
However, it was suggested their high rankings could also be because the study did not distinguish between feeling empathy towards people in other countries and people in one’s own country.
The least empathetic country in the study was found to be Lithuania, while seven out of the bottom 10 were in Eastern Europe.
Dr Chopik said the study showed the United States could be in the middle of an empathetic decline due to shifting views over the last decade.
The US ranked seventh of the list, but researchers suggested Americans may now be more focussed on their individual needs than in the past.
“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,” he said.
The top 10 most empathetic countries in the world
2 Saudi Arabia
5 United Arab Emirates
7 United States
9 Costa Rica