Measures of empathy: Self-report, behavioral, and neuroscientific approaches

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Fernandez, E., Day, A., & Boyle, G.J. (2015). Measures of empathy: Self-report, behavioral, and neuroscientific approaches. In G.J. Boyle, D.H. Saklofske, & G. Matthews (Eds.), Measures of personality and social psychological constructs (pp. 257-289). London, United Kingdom: Academic Press.

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Extract: The measurement of empathy presents a serious challenge for researchers in disciplines ranging from social psychology, individual differences, and clinical psychology. Part of this challenge stems from the lack of a clear, universal definition for empathy. Titchener (1909) used the term to describe how people may objectively enter into the experience of another to gain a deeper appreciation and understanding of their experiences. However, contemporary definitions are much more complex and highlight a range of cognitive, affective, and physiological mechanisms. For example, Batson (2009) noted eight conceptualizations: (a) knowing another’s emotional and cognitive state; (b) matching the posture or neural response of another; (c) feeling the same as another; (d) projecting oneself into another’s situation; (e) imagining how another is feeling and thinking; (f) imagining how one would think and feel in another’s situation; (g) feeling distress for the suffering of another; and (h) feeling for another person who is suffering. Furthermore, empathy overlaps with related, although distinct, constructs such as compassion and sympathy (Decety & Lamm, 2009; Hoffman, 2007; Preston & de Waal, 2002).

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