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The Measurement of Empathy

Author(s): Charles W. Hobart and Nancy Fahlberg


Source: American Journal of Sociology, Vol. 70, No. 5 (Mar., 1965), pp. 595-603
Published by: The University of Chicago Press
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2774979
Accessed: 30-11-2017 04:46 UTC

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The Measurement of Empathy

Charles W. Hobart and Nancy Fahlberg

ABSTRACT

In this paper we examine the recent literature on the predictive test of empathy, propose another pro-
cedure for scoring predictive empathy tests, and present some data suggestive of the relationship between
various predictive measures which have been described in the literature. We attempt to demonstrate that
a significant source of confusion in the literature, and particularly in the published critiques of the prec
dictive test, results from important conceptual and methodological differences in the approaches of psy-
chologically and sociologically oriented social psychologists to the study of empathy. The measure we
propose permits precise segregation of "likeness bias" or projection but does not permit simultaneous
segregation of "unlikeness bias" or reverse projection.

The predictive test of empathy involves major criticisms that have been made and
having a "judge" (j) predict the responses to propose a defensible predictive test of
of an other (0) to a set of items, and then empathy.
comparing J's predictions with the responses A central point in our argument is that
that 0 actually makes to these same items. there are significant differences between the
This technique was first used by Dymond approaches of the social psychologist and
in 1945.1 Criticisms began to appear in the psychologist to the study of empathy.
1952 with doubts concerning the "raw em- The lack of comparability of research find-
pathy score"2 and culminated in the publi- ings from various studies may result from
cation in 1955 of three papers which were the fact that psychologists and social psy-
very critical of the predictive test tech- chologists have been (1) exploring different
nique.3 The consequence appears to have aspects of interpersonal behavior in their
been the virtual abandonment of this pro- studies of empatlhy, (2) employing differ-
cedure, since no important studies making ent types of research designs, and (3) using
use of the predictive test of empathy have a variety of incomparable raw or crudely
been published since that date.4 The pur- "refined" empathy scores in their different
pose of this paper is to evaluate some of the studies. Some recent criticisms of the pre-
dictive test may be appropriate in evalua-
I Rosalind F. Dymond, "A Preliminary Inves-
ting it as a measure of the social percep-
tigation of the Relationship of Insight and Em-
pathy," Journal of Consulting Psychology, XII tion in which psychologists are interested,
(1945), 228-33. but a refined form of the predictive test
'A. H. Hastorf and I. E. Bender, "A Caution may yet be well suited to the kind of
Respecting the Measurement of Empathic Ability," study of empathy and role-taking ability
Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, XLVII
that is of interest to social psychologists.
(1952), 574-76.
Three areas will be taken up in turn: (1)
3 L. J. Cronbach, "Processes Affecting Scores on
'Understanding of Others' and 'Assumed Similar- ' The data for Bronfenbrenner, Harding, and
ity,"' Psychological Bulletin, LII (1955), 177-94. Gallwey's study of "skill in social perception"
N. L. Gage, and L. J. Cronbach, "Conceptual and were gathered in 1954, though their work was not
Methodological Problems in Interpersonal Percep- comprehensively reported until 1958 (Urie Bron-
tion," Psychological Review, LXII (1955), 411-23. fenbrenner, John Harding, and Mary Gallwey,
A. H. Hastorf, I. E. Bender, and D. J. Weintraub, "The Measurement of Skill in Social Perception,"
"The Influence of Response Patterns on the 'Re- in David McClelland et al. [eds.], Talent and So-
fined Empathy Score,'" Journal of Abnormal and ciety [Princeton, N.J.: D. Van Nostrand Co.,
Social Psychology, LI (1955), 341-43. 1958]).

595

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596 THE AMERICAN JOURNAL OF SOCIOLOGY

the contrasting approaches of psychologists then having them predict each other's
and social psychologists to the study of responses on a paper-and-pencil test.5 At
empathy, (2) the techniques used to meas- the other extreme social psychologists have
ure empathy, and (3) the criticisms of asked well-acquainted couples-parents and
these techniques. offspring or marital partners-to predict
each other's responses.6 The former studies
PRIOR APPROACHES
make sense in the context of perception
Contrasting approaches.-The differ- theory. The latter studies, from the per-
ences between the two groups of research- spective of this same theory, are unaccept-
ers are symbolized by the preference of ably imprecise because of the impossibility
social psychologists for the term "empathy" of controlling the profusion of variables
and the preference of psychologists for the that may be conditioning the perceptual
term "social perception" or "person per- process.
ception." These terminologies seem to implyThe differences between "social percep-
differences in the underlying processes in- tion" and "empathy" studies may be clari-
volved. The social psychological approach fied by drawing distinctions among the
based on the work of George Herbert Mead knowing, feeling, and doing modalities,7
conceives of empathy as "taking the role and between spontaneous empathy and
of the other," a process basic to socializa- contrived or artificial social perception. In
tion and the acquisition of a "self." The studies of husbands and wives, subjects
term "empathy" implies that this is a empathize with each other spontaneously
feelingful, perhaps intuitive, process where-and in all three modalities, feeling, know-
by one "identifies" with another. One feels ing, and doing. But two strangers who are
with and for that person whom he knows asked to interact very briefly in a stereo-
well enough to be able to "feel his situa- typed way and then to respond to a predic-
tion." tive test exemplify an artificial and contrived
The psychological approach stems from social perception process. Only the know-
the psychology of perception, an area of ing modality will be very much involved
study foreign to most sociologists. Here because (1) strangers tend to be guarded
the involvement of feeling is given little in their communication of feeling, and (2)
attention. Emphasis tends to be on the they have virtually no opportunity to see
accuracy or inaccuracy of perception and each other "doing."
on sources of error in perception. How J Perception, we suspect, may be a neces-
is to infer responses to feeling items on sary but not sufficient condition for em-
the testing instrument from the perception
5N. L. Gage, "Judging Interests from Expres-
opportunities he has had is unclear. It is sive Behavior," Psychological Monographs, LXVI
apparently assumed that this is a matter (1952), Whole No. 350. Likewise, Bronfenbrenner
of perceiving manifested feeling. The pos- et al. (op. cit.) had their J's make predictions for
O's after very brief acquaintanceship.
sible role of intuition-of identifying with
another person and thus knowing his feel- 8 Clifford Kirkpatrick and Charles Hobart, "Dis-
agreement, Disagreement Estimate and Non-Em-
ings, not by seeing them in him, but by
pathic Imputations for Intimacy Groups Varying
feeling them in oneself-is ignored. from Favorite Date to Married," American Socio-
The differences in these two approaches logical Review, XIX (1954), 10-19.
are reflected in differences in research de- 7 B. Notcutt and A. L. M. Silva, "Knowledge of
sign. A typical psychological study in- Other People," Journal of Abnormal and Social
Psychology, XLVI (1951), 30-37. Stuart Carter
volves having two strangers interact in a
Dodd, "A Predictive Theory of Opinion-Using
highly structured way, such as discussing Nine 'Mode' and 'Tense' Factors," Public Opinion
movies or television for five minutes and Quarterly, XX (1956), 571-85.

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THE MEASUREMENT OF EMPATHY 597

pathy. We define empathy, following Hastorf and Bender, in a critique of


Dymond, as the "imaginative transporting Dymond's approach,12 considered the pos-
of oneself into the thinking, feeling and sibility that projection was compounded
acting of another and so structuring the with empathy in her deviation score. They
world as he does"8-in other words, as demonstrated that the predictions made by
taking the role of the other. The scant her J's were more closely related to their
involvement of perception is seen in our own responses than to the responses of 0,
ability to empathize with a disaster victim which suggests projective rather than em-
known only through a news story, and our pathic predictions by J. Contrary to Dy-
ability not to empathize with people we mond's presumption, Hastorf and Bender
meet briefly who are physically present. concluded that correct prediction on simi-
Measurement procedures.-A major lar own-response items was probably due to
methodological problem is that of distin- projection.
guishing between empathy, correctly taking These considerations led them to devise
the role of the other, and projection. Pro- a refined empathy score, correcting for the
jection, "the attribution to another of one's projection component.13 Dymond's devia-
own needs, interests, and attitudes,"9 is a tion score was subtracted from a projection
process antithetical to empathy. Whether score (the sum of the deviations between
correct prediction of O's response to a J's own responses and his predictions) ,14
questionnaire item is indicative of empathy the remainder being the refined empathy
or of projection becomes problematic when score. When the refined empathy score is
the own responses of J and 0 are identical. positive, J is empathizing more than he is
The approaches of Dymond and of Has- projecting; when it is negative J is pro-
torf and Bender exemplify the two major jecting more than he is empathizing.15 Note
solutions to this discrimination problem. that interpreting the deviations between
Dymond defines empathy operationally as J's own responses and his predictions as
the closeness with which J's response pre- "pure" projection is arbitrary. Kirkpatrick
dictions for 0 correspond with O's re- and Hobart interpreted this same response
sponses. Dymond's deviation score is the differential as a disagreement estimate
sum of J's predictive errors when J's pre- score, reflective of the differences between
dictions and O's responses are recorded on J and 0.16

a five-point scale.10 Dymond found that Hastorf and Bender found a rank order
correlation between the raw empathy score
subjects were able to predict correctly sig-
and the refined empathy score of .30.17
nificantly more often than if chance alone
They concluded that "such a low relation-
were operating."
ship indicates that the two scoring methods
8 Rosalind F. Dymond, "Personality and Em-
' Hastorf and Bender, op. cit.
pathy," Journal of Consulting Psychology, XIV
13 Ibid.
(1950), 343-50; "A Scale for Measurement of
Empathic Ability," Journal of Consulting Psychol-
1' Note that this is in fact a non-projection score.
ogy, XIV (1949), 127.
15 Note that these are lack-of-empathy and lack-
9Hastorf and Bender, op. cit., p. 574. of-projection scores.

10 Her score is thus identical with the n 2 1 Kirkpatrick and Hobart, op. cit.
"incorrect prediction"-cell of Table 1, except that
17 The authors do not mention inverting the raw
Table 1 relates only to the counting of items cor-
(non-) empathy score but it is clear that they
rectly or incorrectly predicted, whereas Dymond's
must have done so since their next sentence begins,
method involves the measurement of predictive
"Although there is some degree of commonality
error on a five-point scale.
between the two measures . . ." (Hastorf and Ben-
1' Dymond, "A Scale . . . ," op. cit. der, op. cit. p. 573).

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598 THE AMERICAN JOURNAL OF SOCIOLOGY

are not really measuring the same abil- Gage and Cronbach specify three areas
ity."18 of confusion that make research on social
The refined empathy score may be criti- perception "virtually valueless."20 Two,
cized because highly similar J-O couple dealing with J's acquaintanceship with 0
members are penalized in this determina- and with a "classification of objects of
tion of empathy. Two types of response perception," do not relate to the measure-
patterns contribute to raising the projectionment of empathy as role-taking ability.
score: (1) all predictions on items where The third, having to do with a distinction
J failed to perceive that he differed from between stereotype and differential accur-
0 and (clearly) projected his own re- acy, is in effect the same problem of cul-
sponses onto 0, and (2) all predictions for tural norms as that raised by Hastorf and
items on which J and 0 responded with associates.
identical own responses and J predicted Cronbach has developed a mathematical
(or possibly projected) correctly. By in- model of social perception based on analy-
terpreting all similarity as projection Has- sis of covariance which permits factoring
torf and Bender commit the same error, butout the various sources of error in J's pre-
in the opposite direction, that Dymond dictions of O's responses.2' A heavy price
committed when she interpreted as em- is paid, however, since his analysis of vari-
pathy all instances where couple members ance technique necessitates (1) requiring
correctly predicted their similar responses. J's to predict for many O's and thus (2)
An adequate measure of empathy should restricting the number of items J's can be
achieve a better solution to the problem of asked to respond to. If one is interested
differentiating empathy from "accurate only in measuring empathic ability and
projection." not in sources of inaccuracies, a less in-
Criticisms.-A variety of major objec- volved approach permits the use of more
tions to empathy or social perception has J's predicting for single O's on a longer
been raised by L. J. Cronbach, N. L. Gage, list of items. Moreover, Cronbach's analy-
and Hastorf, Bender, and Weintraub. We sis technique presumes a normal distribu-
shall consider here only those which could tion of responses on an equal-interval re-
be met by an adequate measure of empathy. sponse scale having a determinable zero
Hastorf et al. raise two objections.'9 The point. The scale that he used-"very
first is that a low error in prediction score much," "a good bit," "only slightly," "not
may be an artifact of the tendency for some at all"-does not meet these assumptions;
subjects to make mid-scale responses under thus his mathematical model has rather
certain conditions and end-scale responses shaky foundations.
at other times. This objection may be met In a synthetic critique of "social per-
by using items on the empathy test that ception scores" Cronbach dicerentiates be-
have only two response alternatives. tween the faults of dyadic analysis and the
Their second objection is that subjects' faults of a global index.22 He notes five
responses to an empathy test often reflect objections to dyadic analysis, three of
a cultural norm, and thus apparent empathy which are relevant here. His first, that
is merely reflective of conformity to the
' Gage and Cronbach, op. cit.
norm by both J and 0. This difficulty may
be overcome by using items that have 21 Cronbach, "Processes Affecting .... ," op. cit.
more or less equally acceptable response a L. J. Cronbach, "Proposals Leading to Ana-
alternatives. lytic Treatment of Social Perception Scores," in
Renato Tagiuri and Luigi Petrullo (eds.), Person
18 Ibid.
Perception and Inter-personal Behavior, Stanford,
19 Hastorf, Bender, and Weintraub, op. cit. Calif.: Stanford University Press, 1958.

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THE MEASUREMENT OF EMPATHY 599

"dyadic analysis is a breeding ground for that provides a solution to problems noted
artifacts," has been noted above. His second above and that does not introduce the dis-
is that discrepancy scores treat regression tortions inherent in Dymond's and in
effects as real changes. This difficulty dis- Hastorf and Bender's scoring procedures.
appears if items having two response al- The crux of the problem of differentiating
ternatives are used. His third objection is empathy from accurate projection hinges
that calculation of discrepancy scores pre- on the interpretation of items where J's and
sumes an interval scale. We have seen that O's own responses are identical, and where
this is a serious objection to Cronbach's prediction is correct. Items having this re-
own procedures for differentiating sources sponse pattern will be called compounded
of error in social perception, but that it score items, since either projection or
may be met by use of items with two re- empathy, or perhaps both, may be re-
sponse alternatives. flected in the response pattern.
Two important criticisms of the predic- The basic data consist of the own re-
tive test of empathy emerge from this sponses and the predicted responses of
review. (1) Several critics have noted the both members of the responding couple.
possible influence of cultural norms and of From these responses four scores are de-
group subcultures that would give rise to rived: the compounded, unperceived simi-
"stereotype accuracy." It is possible to larity, projection, and empathy scores.
get around this problem, however, by de- The relationships among these raw scores
vising items not having clear cultural are shown in Table 1. The scores them-
definition. (2) Empathy test items having selves become differentiated as a result of
three or more response categories raise distinguishing (1) between similarity and
problems involving both equality of scale dissimilarity of J's and O's opinions, and
intervals and tendencies of respondents to (2) between correct and incorrect pre-
make mid-scale or end-scale responses. Use diction by J of O's responses. The follow-
of empathy test items having only two re- ing are operational definitions of the score
sponse alternatives per item seems to solve types found in the fourfold table.
these problems.23 Similarity score n 1: number of items to
which the responding pair gave identical own
PROPOSED MEASURES
responses.
We now turn to a description of our Dissimilarity score n 2: number of items to
attempt to devise a measure of empathy which the pair gave non-identical own re-
sponses.
3 It might be questioned whether the use of two Correct prediction score n .1: number of
categories resolves the equal-interval controversy. items to which J correctly predicted O's own
Is there any reason to assume that the interval responses.
between n and n+1 is equal to the interval between Incorrect prediction score n .2: number of
n+1 and n+2, except that n+1 had one more
items to which J incorrectly predicted O's own
error than n, and n+2 had more error than n+1 ?
responses.
But such a question presumes reconceptualizing
what is in fact a nominal (yes-no) scale into Compounded score n 11: number of items
an interval scale. That is, it assumes that one to which the pair gave identical own responses
category involves more of something than the and J correctly predicted O's own responses.
other, an entirely arbitrary assumption, and thus Empathy score n 21: number of items to
that one is dealing here with a dichotomized in-
which the pair gave non-identical own re-
terval scale. Such an assumption is unnecessary,
sponses and J correctly predicted O's own
and appears unjustified, since it is more parsi-
responses.
monious to assume that the data, as collected, are
nominal data than that they are "really" interval Projection score n 22: number of items to
scale data which have been artifactually dichoto- which the pair gave non-identical own re-
mized. sponses and J incorrectly predicted O's own

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600 THE AMERICAN JOURNAL OF SOCIOLOGY

responses, thus (where two response alterna- is here called the empathy ratio score, or
tives are used) making the prediction iden- ERS.
tical with J's own response. In like manner the raw projection score
Unperceived similarity score n 12: number may be expressed as a ratio of the dis-
of items to which the pair gave identical own
similarity score, and the raw unperceived
responses and J incorrectly predicted O's own
similarity score can be expressed as a ratio
responses.
of the similarity score.
This analysis presumes the use of a test Our method of measuring empathy turns
having only two response alternatives per out to be identical with one suggested by
item. Each score is computed for each sub- Gage and Cronbach.24 While we take as our
ject in the sample. These operational defi- classifying dimensions real similarity-dis-
nitions of empathy and projection insure similarity and correct-incorrect prediction,
that responses are scored as empathic only Gage and Cronbach take real similarity-dis-

TABLE 1

RELATIONSHIPS BETWEEN RAW SCORES, SIMILARITY


SCORES, AND PREDICTION SCORES

Compounded Score Unperceived Similarity Similarity Score


Score

ni1 n 12 n 1

Empathy Score Projection Score Dissimilarity Score

is 21 n 22 n 2

Correct Prediction Incorrect Prediction

n .1 n .2

where J could not possibly be projecting similarity and assumed similarity-dissimi-


and as projective only where he could not larity. Where a is J's self-description, b is
be empathizing. O's self-description, and c is J's prediction
Note that the "base line" of the Em- of O's response, the real similarity-dissimi-
pathy Score, the size of the pool of items larity dimension is a = b, a #? b. The as-
for which J might make a correct prediction sumed similarity-dissimilarity dimension is
of O's own responses, will differ for differ- a = c, a # c, and the correct-incorrect

ent pairs. That is, the number of dissimi-prediction dimension is b - c, b # c. The


larity items will differ for different pairs combinations possible with these basic data
of subjects. Thus a couple having a low are just four in number: (1) a = b -c,
which we term the compounded score and
empathy score and a very low dissimilarity
Gage and Cronbach call the warranted as-
score might be more empathic than a
couple with a higher empathy score but sumed similarity score; (2) a - b ,4 c,
which we call the unperceived similarity
also a very high dissimilarity score. To
score and they call the unwarranted as-
make the raw empathy scores comparable
sumed dissimilarity score; (3) a $ b = c,
between different subjects they were con-
which we call the empathy score and they
verted into ratios by dividing a couple's
call the warranted assumed dissimilarity
raw empathy score by its dissimilarity
score. This score, expressed as a decimal, 2 Gage and Cro

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THE MEASUREMENT OF EMPATHY 601

score; and (4) a 7 b & c, which we call diction on items to which own responses
the projection score and they call the un- were identical was indicative more of pro-
warranted assumed similarity score. jection than of empathy.
To test their position further we cor-
METHOD
related the compounded score, expressed
Our data were obtained from thirty-two as a ratio of the similarity score, with
pairs of sophomore female roommates at a the projection ratio score,26 obtaining an
residential college. The test used was the r, or .27, which is significant at the 5 per
Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, which was cent level. This is compatible with Hastorf
designed to characterize people in terms and Bender's contention that compounded
of Jung's theory of psychological types. items (perceived similarity items) are
This test was chosen because there appear more reflective of projection than of em-
to be no norms specifying appropriate re- pathy. By the same token, however, a
sponses to it. It consists of ninety-four tendency toward correct perception of
items, such as "Does following a schedule: dissimilarity (empathy) is associated with
1-appeal to you, 2-cramp you?"; "Are
TABLE 2
you: 1-easy to get to know, 2-hard to get
to know?"; "Which word in each pair INTERCORRELATIONS OF VARIOUS
MEASURES OF EMPATHY*
appeals to you more: 1-firm-minded, 2-
warm-hearted?; 1-systematic 2-spontane-
ous?" All of the scores noted in Table I Devia- Empathy Refined
tion Ratio Empathy
were derived for each pair of subjects. In ad- Score Score Score
dition, Dymond's deviation scores and Has-
Compounded score.. .58 - .27 .06
torf and Bender's refined empathy scores
Deviation score ...... ........ . 46 .55
were calculated for each subject pair. These Empathy ratio score . . ........ .74
various empathy scores were correlated
with each other using Spearman's r,, cor-
* All correlations are significant at the 5 per cent
with the exception of the .06.
rected for tie scores. In all cases the scores
were ranked in such a way that the low-
a tendency toward non-perception of
rank position signified accurate empathic
similarity. The r, of the ERS with the un-
prediction.
perceived similarity score was .27. Is there
The results of the correlational analysis
any theoretically relevant interpretation
are seen in Table 2. The correlation be-
of this relationship?
tween the deviation score and the refined
We had been interested in the unper-
empathy score is .55, in contrast to the
ceived similarity score because we won-
.30 which Hastorf and Bender report.25
dered what circumstances would lead a
The correlation of .46 between the ERS
subject to see his partner as unlike himself
and the deviation score is of comparable
when in fact he was like himself (on a
magnitude. The ERS does correlate highly,
test item having two response alternatives).
.74, with the refined empathy score. Thus, if
These scores had a wide range, the raw
we assume that the ERS is a more valid
scores ranging from two to thirty-two items
criterion of empathy, since it requires sub-
and the ratio scores ranging from .05 to
jects to predict differences between them
.62. We speculated that it might be "social
correctly and thus is projection-free, it
stupidity" or perhaps "hostility" that re-
would appear that Hastorf and Bender
sulted in what looked like biased mis-
were right in assuming that correct pre-
' Note that the size of the raw compounded
I Hartorf and Bender, "A Caution . . . ," op. cit. score varies with different subjects-as in the case
p. 575. of the raw empathy score.

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602 THE AMERICAN JOURNAL OF SOCIOLOGY

perception of the similarity between self "refinement" which discriminates against


and partner. Three of our subjects fell highly similar predicting couples, as noted
above the chance expected unperceived above. Moreover the unlikeness bias is not
similarity ratio score of .50. A plausible factored out of this refined empathy score.
explanation is found in the concepts of a The empathy ratio score is precise in its
"likeness" and an "unlikeness" bias or removal of the likeness bias, but, as the
what Fiedler has referred to as assumed .27 correlation with unperceived similarity
similarity or dissimilarity.27 What Hastorf for our sample shows, it is somewhat re-
and Bender had thought of as projection flective of an unlikeness bias. In terms of
may be a bias toward seeing the other as this analysis the ERS is also a "com-
like oneself whether he is (as in the case pounded" score. The compounded (or per-
of compounded-score items) or is not (as ceived similarity) ratio score reflects em-
in the case of projection-score items). The pathic ability free from unlikeness bias,
"unlikeness bias" is a tendency to see the but compounded with likeness bias. This
other as unlike oneself, whether he actually interpretation is compatible with the pat-
is so (as in the case of empathy items) tern of intercorrelations found in Table 2.

.55

Empathy Plus Comp.-.58-Deviation-.46 -ERS-.74-Ref. Emp. Empathy Plus


Likeness Bias Score Score Score Score Unlikeness Bias

-.27 1

.06

FIG. 1.-Continuum showing r

or is not so (as in the case of unperceived In addition to the relationships already


similarity items). The "perceived simi- cited, the table shows that the compounded
larity" score provides a convenient index ratio score correlated with the deviation
of this unlikeness bias. We conclude that score and the refined empathy score .58
the ERS score is not the uncontaminated and .06, respectively, using the Spearman
measure of empathic ability which we had rho correlation coefficient.
thought it might be. A clearer way of ordering the relation-
Empathic ability and likeness and un- ships found in Table 2 is seen in Figure 1.
likeness bias appear to contribute to the Here the scores are arranged along a con-
deviation score, the refined empathy score, tinuum showing empathy plus likeness bias
the compounded score, and the empathy at one extreme and empathy plus unlikeness
ratio score as follows: The deviation score bias at the other extreme. The pattern of in-
appears to reflect empathic ability and tercorrelations found in the figure is com-
both the likeness and unlikeness bias. By patible with the intrepretation that the
subtracting the projection score from the compounded score reflects empathic ability
deviation score to obtain the refined em- and both likeness and unlikeness bias, and
pathy score, Hastorf and Bender eliminate the ERS and the refined empathy score
the likeness bias. But this is an imprecise reflect empathic ability and unlikeness
bias. Note that our data show little rela-
7 F. E. Fiedler, "A Method of Objective Quanti-
fication of Certain Countertransference Attitudes,"
tionship between some of these "empathy
Journal of Clinical Psychology, VII (1951), 101-7. measures."

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THE MEASUREMENT OF EMPATHY 603

Perhaps no "pure" measure of empathy score is composed of the unperceived


based on predictions of J-O pairs is pos- similarity score and the projection score.
sible: There appears to be no way simul- When the mean raw unperceived similarity
taneously to factor out both the likeness score is larger than the mean raw projection
bias and the unlikeness bias using pairs score, the deviation score or the com-
of prediction scores. Which one should pounded score should be used because an
be used when a measure of empathy is unlikeness bias is predominant. When the
needed? In our sample only three out of mean raw projection score exceeds the
sixty-four subjects had unperceived simi- mean raw unperceived similarity score, the
larity ratio scores above the .5 chance ERS which controls for likeness bias
level that would suggest an unlikeness bias. should be used.
However, twenty of our subjects had a This paper has reviewed the criticisms
projection ratio score above the .5 chance of predictive tests of empathy and has
level, suggesting the operation of a like- suggested some ways of coping with the
ness bias. This is of course to be expected most cogent of these criticisms. Use of
in a sample of roommates who in most test items with two response alternatives
cases have chosen to live with each other. helps to overcome a number of mensura-
Where there is reason to expect a sample- tion problems. Tests composed of items
wide likeness bias, the ERS, which is free which are largely culturally undefined and
of this bias, would be the empathy meas- thus bias-free, like the Myers-Briggs Type
ure to use. Calculation of unperceived Indicator, are available. Procedures exist
similarity ratio scores will give insightforinto
the identification and the isolation
the extent to which unlikeness bias is from the empathy score of both the like-
operating in the sample. ness bias and the unlikeness bias, though
Where one may expect a strong unlike- not for the isolation of both simultane-
ness bias, where J's may feel alienated ously. Until new tests appear, a refined
from O's, either the deviation score or prediction score is still the best procedure
the compounded score would seem appro- for measuring empathy between subject
priate. This suggestion can be formulated pairs.
more precisely. The incorrect-prediction UNIVERSITY OF ALBERTA

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