The Empathy Scale (Hogan, 1969
), one of the first measures to achieve widespread use, contains four separate dimensions: social self-confidence, even-temperedness, sensitivity, and nonconformity. A recent psychometric analysis of the scale, however, indicates questionable test-retest reliability and low internal consistency, along with poor replication of its previously hypothesized factor structure (Froman & Peloquin, 2001
). Indeed, several authors suggest that the four factors measured by this scale are better suited to the measurement of social skills, broadly speaking, than a central tendency towards empathic behavior (Davis, 1983
; Baron-Cohen & Wheelwright, 2004
). Hogan’s (1969)
Empathy Scale has been widely employed as a measure of cognitive empathy (e.g. Eslinger, 1998
), but has recently been supplanted in popularity by the Interpersonal Reactivity Index (IRI; Davis, 1983
), discussed below.
The Questionnaire Measure of Emotional Empathy (QMEE; Mehrabian & Epstein, 1972
) re-emphasizes the original definition of the empathy construct (Titchener, 1909
; Wispé, 1986
). The scale contains seven subscales that together show high split-half reliability, indicating the presence of a single underlying factor thought to reflect affective or emotional empathy. The authors of this scale suggested more recently, however, that rather than measuring empathy per se, the scale more accurately reflects general emotional arousability (Mehrabian, Young & Sato, 1988
). In response, an unpublished, revised version of the measure, the Balanced Emotional Empathy Scale (Mehrabian, 2000
) taps respondents’ reactions to others’ mental states (c.f. Lawrence, et al., 2004
The IRI (Davis, 1983
) contains four subscales: Perspective Taking and Fantasy in addition to Empathic Concern and Personal Distress-each pair purported to tap cognitive and affective components of empathy, respectively. As pointed out by Baron-Cohen and colleagues (Baron-Cohen & Wheelwright, 2004
), however, the Fantasy and Personal Distress subscales of this measure contain items that may more properly assess imagination (e.g., “I daydream and fantasize with some regularity about things that might happen to me”) and emotional self-control (e.g., “In emergency situations I feel apprehensive and ill at ease”), respectively, than theoretically-derived notions of empathy. Indeed, the Personal Distress subscale appears to assess feelings of anxiety, discomfort, and a loss of control in negative environments. Factor analytic and validity studies suggest that the Personal Distress subscale may not assess a central component of empathy (Cliffordson, 2001
). Instead, Personal Distress may be more related to the personality trait of neuroticism, while the most robust components of empathy appear to be represented in the Empathic Concern and Perspective Taking subscales (Alterman, McDermott, Cacciola & Rutherford, 2003
Other self-report measures of empathy have been developed to target specific populations. These include: the Scale of Ethnocultural Empathy (Wang, et al., 2003
), the Jefferson Scale of Physician Empathy (Hojat, et al., 2001
), the Nursing Empathy Scale (Reynolds, 2000
), the Autism Quotient (Baron-Cohen, Wheelwright, Skinner, Martin & Clubley, 2001
) and the Japanese Adolescent Empathy Scale (Hashimoto & Shiomi, 2002
). Although these instruments were designed for use with specific groups, aspects of these scales may be suitable for assessing a general capacity for empathic responding. That is, all of these diverse scales touch upon an aspect of empathy, broadly speaking.
The Autism Quotient (Baron-Cohen, Wheelwright, Skinner et al., 2001
), for example, was developed to measure Autism Spectrum Disorder symptoms. The authors viewed a deficit in theory of mind as the characteristic symptom of this disease (Baron-Cohen, 1995
) and number of items from this measure relate to broad deficits in social processing (e.g., “I find it difficult to work out people’s intentions.”). Thus, any measure of empathy should exhibit a negative correlation with this measure. The magnitude of this relation, however, will necessarily be attenuated by the other aspects of the Autism Quotient, which measure unrelated constructs (e.g., attentional focus and local processing biases).
Additional self-report measures of social interchange appearing in the neuropsychological literature contain items tapping empathic responding, including the Dysexecutive Questionnaire (Burgess, Alderman, Evans, Wilson & Emslie, 1996
) and a measure of emotion comprehension developed by Hornak and colleagues (Hornak, Rolls & Wade, 1996
). These scales focus on the respondent’s ability to identify the emotional states expressed by another (e.g., “I recognize when others are feeling sad.”). Current theoretical notions of empathy emphasize the requirement for understanding of another’s emotions in order to form an empathic response (Bernieri, 2001
). Only a small number of items on current measures of empathy, however, assess this ability.
The present study attempts to formulate a consensus among the many scales in use to gauge the empathy construct. Using exploratory factor analysis (EFA), we forced the items to load onto a single factor, thereby assembling a group of highly related items from across many measures of empathic responding, bringing about a unidimensional factor of empathy. Our aim was to identify what is common among different conceptions of empathy, as operationalized by published measures of this construct. In a series of three studies, we constructed the Toronto Empathy Questionnaire (TEQ), and demonstrated the TEQ’s construct validity through associations with behavioral and self-report measures of interpersonal sensitivity, as well as its internal consistency and test-retest reliability.