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Relationship between Self-Report and Behavioral Measures of Empathy

Calvi, Jessica L.
Conceptualizations of the construct of empathy have varied with differing methods used to examine it. Based on discordant findings in previous research on self-reported empathy and behavioral measures of empathy, the current study tested the hypothesis that self-reported and behavioral measures are significantly positively correlated with one another. Neurotypical undergraduate students completed self-report measures of empathy (Interpersonal Reactivity Index; Davis, 1980 and Empathy Quotient; Baron-Cohen & Wheelwright, 2004), a behavioral measure of empathy ("Reading the Mind in the Eyes" test-Revised; Baron-Cohen et al., 2001), temperament (Adult Temperament Questionnaire; Rothbart et al., 2000), personality (Mini-Marker Big Five; Saucier, 1994), and gender identification (Bem, 1974). Results showed that empathy self-report scales were not consistently correlated with the behavioral measure of empathy, and moderation analyses revealed significant differences between males and females on self-reported versus behavioral measures of empathy. Additional analyses indicated that empathy may also be understood in the context of other dispositional traits such as temperament. As a multidimensional construct, the study of empathy may be better understood with measures of empathy that are behaviorally based in order to correct for potential issues with self-report measures.