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Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Rethinking Empathic Accuracy
by Meadors, Joshua D., Ph.D., University of California, Riverside, 2014, 171; 3643995
Abstract (Summary)

The present study is a methodological examination of the implicit empathic accuracy measure introduced by Zaki, Ochsner, and Bolger (2008). Empathic accuracy (EA) is defined as the ability to understand another person's thoughts and feelings (Ickes, 1993). Because this definition is similar to definitions of cognitive empathy (e.g., Shamay-Tsoory, 2011) and because affective empathy does not appear to be related to empathic accuracy (Zaki et al., 2008), the Basic Empathy Scale—which measures cognitive and affective empathy separately—was used to test construct validity. Validity was also examined by relating this implicit measure of EA to psychological constructs characteristically associated with empathy deficits (i.e., autism, alexithymia, and psychopathy) as well as behavioral measures of interpersonal sensitivity (i.e., the DANVA, IPT, and PONS). The "modularity" of this measure is explored by examining EA as a function of group membership (i.e., ingroup and outgroup empathic accuracy). EA is tested via one group of participants (i.e., targets) providing video-recorded data of themselves discussing a personal event and later making continuous ratings of their emotional appearance. A second group of participants (i.e., perceivers) also makes continuous ratings on the videos and accuracy is defined as the correlation between ratings. Previous research neglects to mention the specifics of obtaining continuous rating utilities, so the present study suggests using the freely available software GTrace in research attempts to implement this methodology. Analyses from the present study indicate this measure of EA does indeed appear to be more related to cognitive empathy than affective empathy. However, there may also be affective aspects to this measure, or perhaps constructs like autism and psychopathy function differently than expected on this task. The measure also does not appear to relate to (or overlap with) other established behavioral measures of interpersonal sensitivity, although the IPT (arguably the most social information-laden measure) seems to be the best predictor of EA. Furthermore, the ingroup and outgroup versions of EA uncovered significant relationships that may have otherwise gone unnoticed. But perhaps beyond all of these results, there are considerable gender differences to contemplate. Research implications, limitations, and future suggestions are discussed in further detail.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Murray, Carolyn B.
Commitee: Ozer, Daniel, Rosenthal, Robert
School: University of California, Riverside
Department: Psychology
School Location: United States -- California
Source: DAI-B 76/03(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Social psychology, Experimental psychology
Keywords: Autism, Empathic accuracy, Empathy, Intergroup anxiety, Interpersonal sensitivity, Psychopathy
Publication Number: 3643995
ISBN: 978-1-321-32026-8
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