A Multidimensional Approach to Individual Differences in Empahty

  • Davis M
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The development of a multidimensional individual difference measure of empathy is described. The final version of the instrument consists of four seven-item subscales, each of which taps a separate aspect of the global concept "empathy." One scale, the perspective-taking scale, contains items which assess spontaneous attempts to adopt the perspectives of other people and see things from their point of view. Items on the fantasy scale measure the tendency to identify with characters in movies, novels, plays and other fictional situations. The other two subscales explicitly tap respondents' chronic emotional reactions to the negative experiences of others. The empathic concern scale inquires about respondents' feelings of warmth, compassion, and concern for others, while the personal distress scale measures the personal feelings of anxiety and discomfort that result from observing another's negative experience. The factor structure underlying these scales is the same for both sexes, and emerged in two independent samples. Test-retest and internal reliabilities of all four scales were substantial. The pattern of sex differences and the intercorrelations of these four scales are discussed in terms of recent theoretical treatments of the development of empathy (Hoffman, 1976). It is concluded that the new measure has considerable potential for investigations of the multidimensional nature of empathy.

Author-supplied keywords

  • Dissertation-Abstract
  • Empathy
  • Human
  • Individual-Differences
  • Language
  • Test Construction
  • Test Validity
  • Testing
  • development & validity of assessment instrument,in
  • individual differences
  • validity

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  • Mark H Davis

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