ChapterPDF Available

Empathic accuracy in close relationships

Authors:

Figures

Content may be subject to copyright.
CHAPTER
348
go of mind reading (i.e., its just not good for us)?
As tempting as it might be to draw such simple
and unquali ed conclusions, we suggest that the
reality of mind reading in close relationships is
far more nuanced and complex. With regard to
Tracys  rst assertion, we will argue that although
no one is a mind-reading superstar, poor mind
readers su er from their de ciency, and it is a
mistake to assume that we are all better o not
even trying to “read” our relationship partners
minds. With regard to Tracy’s second assertion, we
will argue that everyday mind reading—what we
call empathic accuracy —is neither entirely good
nor entirely bad. As we hope to demonstrate, our
empathic accuracy often helps, but sometimes
To married couples who are having trouble com-
municating with each other, child and family coun-
selor Jean Tracy o ers the following advice:
Stop mind reading. You can guess but you cant
read anyones mind. Sometimes your guesses
are close. Much of the time, theyre wrong. If
youre not good at mind reading, neither is your
partner. Nobody is. Use your reason and let go
of mind reading. You’ll both be happier. (Tracy,
February 23, 2009)
Are these assertions correct? Is it true that
nobody is good at mind reading (i.e., were just
not good at it)? Is it also true that we—and our
relationships—would be better o if we just let
Abstract
In the present chapter we examine the role that empathic accuracy plays in people’s close
relationships. We first define the term empathic accuracy and briefly review the historical precedents
of this important construct. We then describe how empathic accuracy is operationally defined and
measured within the context of the three major research paradigms that have been developed to
date: the dyadic interaction paradigm , the standard stimulus paradigm , and the standard interview paradigm .
Next, we summarize the results of the search for reliable predictors of empathic accuracy, starting
with characteristics of perceivers and then moving to characteristics of targets.
The rest of the chapter focuses specifically on empathic accuracy in close relationship. This section
examines the “motivational dynamics” of empathic accuracy, using Ickes and Simpson’s (1997, 2001)
empathic accuracy model to specify when perceivers will attempt to accurately versus in accurately
infer their relationship partners thoughts and feelings. With the empathic accuracy model and its
associated research findings as background, we go on to explore the role of empathic accuracy in
successful social interactions. Finally, we suggest some useful directions for future research and
summarize both the strengths and the limitations of of “everyday mind reading.”
Key Words: empathic accuracy, close relationships, research paradigms, the empathic accuracy
model, motivated accuracy, motivated inaccuracy, inferential difficulty, perceiver differences, target
differences
William Ickes and Sara D. Hodges
Empathic Accuracy in Close
Relationships
1 6
OUP UNCORRECTED PROOF – FIRSTPROOFS, Fri Jan 11 2013, NEWGEN
16_JeffryASimpson_Ch 16.indd 34816_JeffryASimpson_Ch 16.indd 348 1/11/2013 4:24:25 AM1/11/2013 4:24:25 AM
349, 
D e nitions
Let’s begin with the existing de nitions of
two closely related terms: empathic inference and
empathic accuracy. As de ned by Ickes (2009,
p. 57):
Empathic inference is the everyday mind reading
that people do whenever they attempt to infer
other peoples thoughts and feelings. It is a concept
that other writers address under such headings as
mentalizing” or “theory of mind” (Stone, 2006;
Stone & Gerans, 2006). Empathic accuracy is the
extent to which such everyday mind reading attempts
are successful (Ickes, 1997, 2003). To put it simply,
empathically accurate perceivers are those who
are good at “reading” other people’s thoughts and
feelings.
e Origin of the Empathic
Accuracy Construct
From a historical standpoint, the most obvious
precedent for the empathic accuracy construct is
Carl Rogerss concept of accurate empathy . Rogers
(1957) used this term to describe the (ideal) clini-
cians ability to correctly infer, from one moment
to the next, the content of a client’s successive
thoughts and feelings. When William Ickes later
needed to name the inferential accuracy measure
that he and his colleagues had just developed (Ickes,
Stinson, Bissonnette, & Garcia, 1990), he decided
to reverse the words in Rogerss term to put the pri-
mary emphasis on the accuracy portion of his term
empathic accuracy .
is etymological link is not quite as straightfor-
ward as it appears, however. As Ickes (2003) notes
in chapter 4 of his book, Everyday Mind Reading, his
choice of the term empathic accuracy also derived
from his own “crash course” study of the empathy
construct. One of the things he learned was that,
following the introduction of this construct by
eodore Lipps around 1903, the word empathy
quickly acquired multiple meanings as di erent
writers treated it as a kind of “Rorschach word”
into which they could project their own preferred
conceptions (at least eight of them, according to a
recent review by Batson, 2009).
It should be noted that when Ickes and his col-
leagues use the word “empathy,” the meaning they
have in mind is essentially the same as that pro-
posed by the philosopher Max Scheler (1931):
empathy is the apperception or intuition of another
persons thoughts and feelings (see also Becker,
1931, 1956).
hurts, our close relationships.  e trick lies in
knowing the di erence between when it helps and
when it hurts.
Finally, although Tracy neglected to mention
the issue, we will review a considerable amount
of evidence attesting to the importance of the
perceivers motivation in determining the level of
empathic accuracy that he or she achieves. We will
argue that although perceivers are usually moti-
vated to achieve greater accuracy, they are some-
times motivated to be less accurate—particularly
in situations in which the relationship would be
threatened by a more accurate knowledge of what
ones interaction partner is currently thinking or
feeling.
Overview
To state our goals more broadly, in the pres-
ent chapter we examine the role that empathic
accuracy plays in peoples close relationships. We
rst de ne what empathic accuracy is and brie y
review the historical precedents of this construct.
We next describe how empathic accuracy is opera-
tionally de ned and measured within the context of
the three major research paradigms that have been
developed to date. We then summarize the search
for reliable predictors of empathic accuracy, starting
with characteristics of perceivers and then moving
to characteristics of targets.
e rest of the chapter focuses speci cally on
empathic accuracy in close relationship.  is sec-
tion of the chapter examines the “motivational
dynamics” of empathic accuracy, using Ickes
and Simpsons (1997, 2001) empathic accuracy
model to specify when perceivers will attempt
to accurately versus in accurately infer their rela-
tionship partner’s thoughts and feelings. With
the empathic accuracy model and its associated
research  ndings as background, we then explore
the role of empathic accuracy in successful social
interactions. Finally, we suggest some useful direc-
tions for future research and revisit Jean Tracys
assertions about the perils and pitfalls of everyday
mind reading.
Empathic Accuracy: What Is It and
How Is It Measured?
In this section of the chapter, we address two
fundamental questions: What is empathic accuracy
and how is it measured? While answering these two
questions, we also provide a historical perspective
on the construct of empathic accuracy and how it
has developed over time.
OUP UNCORRECTED PROOF – FIRSTPROOFS, Fri Jan 11 2013, NEWGEN
16_JeffryASimpson_Ch 16.indd 34916_JeffryASimpson_Ch 16.indd 349 1/11/2013 4:24:26 AM1/11/2013 4:24:26 AM
350     
the participants independently view the tape a sec-
ond time, when it is now paused at each of the
points at which their interaction partner reported
a speci c thought or feeling. Using a thought/feel-
ing inference form (see the example in Figure 16.2),
they record their written inference about what their
partner’s thought or feeling was at each of the “tape
stops,” thereby enabling the experimenter to match
each of the actual thoughts and feelings reported
by a participant with the corresponding empathic
inference made by his or her interaction partner.
When all of the data have been collected, trained
raters compare the content of the inferred thought
or feeling with that of the actual thought or feel-
ing and assign “accuracy points” that range from
0 (essentially di erent content) through 1 (simi-
lar, but not the same, content) to 2 (essentially the
same content).
3
Note that the total number of accu-
racy points possible always equals 2 (the maximal
accuracy points per inference) times the number
of inferences made. In a  nal step, dividing the
total number of accuracy points earned (averaged
across the judgments of enough raters to get suf-
cient interrater reliability) by the total number of
accuracy points possible yields a “percent correct”
measure of empathic accuracy.
e dyadic interaction paradigm is useful for
studying empathic accuracy in the naturally occur-
ring interactions of pairs of individuals whose level
of acquaintance can vary widely, depending on the
purposes of the study: strangers, acquaintances,
close friends, dating partners, or couples who are
married or cohabiting. It is particularly well suited
for making empathic accuracy comparisons between
certain types of dyads (e.g., strangers versus friends,
distressed versus nondistressed married couples) and
within certain other types of dyads (e.g., an autistic
person paired with a nonautistic partner of the same
age, gender, and IQ level).
4
the standard stimulus paradigm
In studies using the standard stimulus para-
digm , individual participants are asked to view
one or more videotapes of dyadic interactions that
occurred between other people. Again, who these
other people” are can vary widely, depending on
the purpose of the study. For example, they can be
strangers, close friends, married couples, two people
who are negotiating a business deal, a therapist talk-
ing with a client, or a mother spending time with
her child. Immediately following each of these vid-
eotaped interactions, the actual thoughts and feel-
ings of the people on the tape are obtained. From
e Measurement of Empathic Accuracy
In the original procedure for measuring empathic
accuracy that Ickes and his colleagues developed
(Ickes, Stinson, Bissonnette, & Garcia, 1990),
1
empathic accuracy is measured on a percentage (0 to
100) scale as the ratio of the “total number of accu-
racy points earned” to the “total number of accuracy
points possible.” If this type of performance mea-
sure sounds familiar, it should. It is the same “per-
cent correct” measure on which our performance is
typically evaluated in grade school through middle
school through high school—and often beyond.
But how do we obtain the terms of this ratio:
the total number of accuracy points earned and the
total number of accuracy points possible? To see
how this is done, we must  rst consider the pro-
cedure that Ickes, Stinson, et al. (1990) developed
to measure empathic accuracy in what they call the
dyadic interaction paradigm .
2
the dyadic interaction paradigm
In this procedure, a pair of individuals is escorted
into a laboratory “waiting room,” seated together,
and asked to wait while the experimenter completes
a necessary errand. During the time they are left
together (a time interval that varies according to the
design and purposes of the study), they are covertly
videotaped without their prior knowledge—a prac-
tice that is essential to ensure that their interaction
together is spontaneous and una ected by the prior
knowledge that any recording of their interaction
will occur.
After returning from the “errand,” the experi-
menter probes for any suspicion that the interaction
was recorded, explains the deception and why it was
necessary, and asks the participants to sign a release
form that allows the researchers to use the tape
as a source of data. If both participants give their
signed consent, the experimenter then explains that
the rest of the procedure requires the participants
to independently view separate copies of the video-
taped interaction and pause their respective copy at
each of the points where they had a speci c, clearly
remembered thought or feeling.
If the participants give their further signed con-
sent to continue, they are seated in separate cubi-
cles where they perform this task using a thought/
feeling reporting form (see an example in Figure
16.1). Each person makes a list of all of the speci c
thoughts and feelings he or she remembered hav-
ing during the videotaped interaction and records
the times displayed on the video counter when they
occurred.  en, in the  nal phase of the procedure,
OUP UNCORRECTED PROOF – FIRSTPROOFS, Fri Jan 11 2013, NEWGEN
16_JeffryASimpson_Ch 16.indd 35016_JeffryASimpson_Ch 16.indd 350 1/11/2013 4:24:26 AM1/11/2013 4:24:26 AM
351, 
be done in the dyadic interaction paradigm, in
which di erent perceivers infer the unique thoughts
and feelings of their own particular partner target.
is feature of the standard stimulus paradigm
makes it particularly well suited to studies of how
individual di erences in perceiver characteristics
(their ability, motivation, personality, interest, atten-
tion, etc.) are related to the individual di erences in
their empathic accuracy scores. In addition, if the
standard stimulus tape depicts multiple “target per-
sons” who vary in the overall “readability” of their
thoughts and feelings, the paradigm makes it easy
to study the variables associated with these target
readability di erences as well.
these videotaped interactions, a “master” standard
stimulus tape is later created and shown to individ-
ual research participants, who view this tape with
the instruction to infer the speci c content of the
target persons reported thought or feeling at each of
the previously determined “tape stops” (for the  rst
study to use this paradigm, see Marangoni, Garcia,
Ickes, & Teng, 1995).
Because all of the individual “perceivers” in the
study infer the same exact set of thoughts and feel-
ings, the task is objectively the same for all of them.
is means that the empathic accuracy scores they
obtain can be meaningfully compared across all of
the perceivers in the study—something that cannot
+
0
+
0
+
0
+
0
+
0
+
0
I was feeling:
I was thinking:
I was feeling:
I was thinking:
I was feeling:
I was thinking:
I was feeling:
I was thinking:
I was feeling:
I was thinking:
I was feeling:
I was thinking:
DATE
NUMBER
MF
TIME THOUGHT OR FEELING +, 0, –
Figure 16.1 ought/feeling reporting form.
OUP UNCORRECTED PROOF – FIRSTPROOFS, Fri Jan 11 2013, NEWGEN
16_JeffryASimpson_Ch 16.indd 35116_JeffryASimpson_Ch 16.indd 351 1/11/2013 4:24:26 AM1/11/2013 4:24:26 AM
352     
is particularly useful in studying acquaintanceship
e ects because it lends itself well to yoked-subjects
designs in which “perceiver pairs” are composed of
one perceiver who knows the target (interviewee)
well and another perceiver who does not.
Reliability and Validity of the Empathic
Accuracy Measure
In each of these research paradigms, di erent
raters assess the degree of similarity between the
perceivers empathic inferences and the correspond-
ing thoughts or feelings that the target person actu-
ally reported.  e researcher can therefore assess the
interrater reliability of the aggregated measure of
the standard interview paradigm
Finally, in studies using the standard interview par-
adigm, the participant views a videotaped interview
in which the target person (who may be a stranger, a
friend, an intimate partner, etc., to the participant)
is asked to respond to a standard set of questions
that are posed by an interviewer.  e videotape is
paused immediately before each of the interviewee’s
responses, and the task of the perceiver is to write
down his or her “best guess” about what the intervie-
wee said in response to the question. Empathic accu-
racy is later assessed in terms of how well the content
of the predicted answers matched the content of the
actual answers.  is standard interview paradigm
TIME THOUGHT OR FEELING +, 0, –
+
0
+
0
+
0
+
0
+
0
+
0
He/She was feeling:
He/She was thinking:
He/She was feeling:
He/She was thinking:
He/She was feeling:
He/She was thinking:
He/She was feeling:
He/She was thinking:
He/She was feeling:
He/She was thinking:
He/She was feeling:
He/She was thinking:
DATE
NUMBER
MF
Figure 16.2 ought/feeling inference form.
OUP UNCORRECTED PROOF – FIRSTPROOFS, Fri Jan 11 2013, NEWGEN
16_JeffryASimpson_Ch 16.indd 35216_JeffryASimpson_Ch 16.indd 352 1/11/2013 4:24:27 AM1/11/2013 4:24:27 AM
353, 
empathic accuracy, which has generally been quite
high. For example, in a range of studies conducted
by Ickes and his colleagues, the interrater reliabilities
have ranged from a low of .85 in a study in which
only four raters were used to a high of .98 in two
studies in which either seven or eight raters were
used (Ickes, 2001).
e validity of the empathic accuracy measure
does not reside in the results of a single study or
two, but instead resides in the large and developing
body of research  ndings that has accumulated over
nearly 25 years. As we will see, some of these stud-
ies tested predictions derived from common sense,
whereas other studies tested predictions derived
from theory. In both cases, the assumption was
made that if these commonsense or theory-based
predictions were con rmed, their con rmation
would have the “spillover” bene t of increasing our
con dence in the validity of the empathic accuracy
outcome measure.
Are ere Reliable Predictors
of Empathic Accuracy?
Finding reliable predictors of empathic accu-
racy has proved to be more di cult than one might
expect. Although there is plenty of evidence for
the intuitive belief that some people have greater
empathic ability than others,  nding replicable
correlates of this ability has—with only a few
exceptions—turned out to be a frustrating chal-
lenge. In this section of the chapter, we examine
the evidence that empathic accuracy is indeed a
reliable ability trait, but one that is not consistently
predicted by other individual di erence factors,
including demographic variables, personality traits,
and what are generally presumed to be conceptually
related interpersonal sensitivity skills.
Some People Have Greater Empathic
Accuracy than Others
Two observations support the intuitively obvious
conclusion that some people have greater empathic
ability than others.  e  rst observation is that
autistic individuals are de cient in their empathic
accuracy compared with normally developing indi-
viduals.  e second observation is that there is sub-
stantial cross-target consistency in the empathic
accuracy of normally developing individuals.
autistic individuals have impaired
empathic accuracy
According to Baron-Cohen (1995), severely auti-
stic individuals are “mindblind” in their inability
to accurately infer other peoples thoughts and feel-
ings. Indeed, it would be pointless to try to test the
performance of severely autistic individuals on the
kinds of empathic accuracy measures that we have
described above; it would be an exercise akin to ask-
ing visually blind individuals to read all the words
on passing billboard signs. Instead, researchers now
view autism as a continuum or “spectrum” that con-
nects profoundly autistic individuals at one extreme
with exceptionally good everyday mind readers at
the other extreme, and therefore test for more subtle
di erences in how the empathic accuracy of mildly
to moderately autistic individuals (i.e., those with
Asperger syndrome) compares with that of their
normally developing counterparts.
For example, Demurie, DeCorel, and Roeyers
(2011) compared the empathic accuracy of mildly
autistic individuals who had normal intelligence
with that of normally developing control subjects.
ey found that the mildly autistic individuals dis-
played a relative de cit in their ability to infer the
thoughts and feelings of videotaped target persons.
Similarly, Ponnet et al. (2008) found that a mildly
autistic sample had lower empathic accuracy scores
than a typically developing sample, and that this
e ect was particularly pronounced when the target
video was an unstructured “get to know you” con-
versation between two individuals, compared with
a structured “get to know you” conversation that
occurred after providing the two individuals with
a set of questions they could use to learn about
each other.
cross-target consistency in normally
developing individuals
Additional evidence that some people have
greater empathic ability than others is provided by
studies showing signi cant cross-target consistency
in the empathic accuracy of normally developing
individuals. In the  rst of these studies, Marangoni
et al. (1995) showed participants videotapes of
three female targets and found that the participants
cross-target correlations were signi cant and quite
substantial (averaging .60), thereby demonstrating
stable between-perceiver variation in the ability to
infer the thoughts and feelings of di erent target
persons.
Other studies by Gesn and Ickes (1999) and
Pham and Rivers (as cited in Ickes et al., 2000)
also showed reliable cross-target, within-perceiver
e ects, but the fact that all of these studies used
the same targets, all of whom were women talk-
ing about personal problems in a pseudo-therapy
OUP UNCORRECTED PROOF – FIRSTPROOFS, Fri Jan 11 2013, NEWGEN
16_JeffryASimpson_Ch 16.indd 35316_JeffryASimpson_Ch 16.indd 353 1/11/2013 4:24:27 AM1/11/2013 4:24:27 AM
354     
utility drops o precipitously as individuals start
to leave childhood.  e acquisition of a “theory of
mind” (e.g., see Gopnik & Wellman, 1994)—that
is, realizing that other peoples thoughts and feelings
can di er from our own, and that these di erences
can derive from corresponding di erences in what
these other people are in a position to know or to
perceive— rst emerges around the age of 3 years
and is present in typically developing children by
5 years of age.
As children continue to develop, they become
increasingly able to contemplate more complicated
other minds” problems, such as second-order
theory of mind tasks that involve imagining what
another person believes about a third persons beliefs
(Perner & Wimmer, 1985). However, these abili-
ties may be attributable to the development of more
general skills, such as executive function, rather
than to a speci c honing of mind reading-skills.
And beyond the dramatic increase in everyday
mind-reading ability that occurs during the relatively
brief period between infancy through middle child-
hood, age-related change during adolescence and
adulthood is not clearly associated with improved
empathic accuracy.
sex and gender
Are sex and gender (psychological masculinity
and femininity) sources of these substantial indi-
vidual di erences? Sex and gender have at times
looked promising—both theoretically and occa-
sionally empirically—as possible contenders for
predicting empathic accuracy, but they have proved
to be somewhat  ckle. A recent review by Hodges,
Laurent, and Lewis (2011) of the available litera-
ture can be summarized as “Women are sometimes
better than men and sometimes not; but men are
rarely, if ever, better than women.”  ese results set
empathic accuracy apart from other measures of
interpersonal sensitivity for which women show a
consistent—and robust—advantage over men (Hall,
1978, 1984; Hall & Mast, 2008; McClure, 2000).
And although there is considerably less literature on
gender di erences as contrasted with dichotomous
sex di erences, a tentative parallel statement may be
made about variations along a gender continuum:
Femininity sometimes predicts greater empathic
accuracy and sometimes not, but femininity is, in
general, a better bet than masculinity (see Hodges
et al., 2010).
One of the reasons that women sometimes have
the advantage over men in empathic accuracy is that
certain motivators appear to a ect women but not
session, raises the possibility that cross-target sta-
bility may be more pronounced when the target
videos are similar. Kelleher (1998, as cited in Ickes
et al., 2000), using a di erent set of targets (pairs of
interactants, some of whom had been told to try to
make their partner laugh), found that a somewhat
smaller percentage of variance was attributable to
the perceiver. Finally, the two studies by Ponnet and
colleagues (Ponnet et al., 2004, 2008) found sta-
tistically signi cant within-perceiver correlations of
moderate size for empathic accuracy scores across
two targets.
In summary, the available evidence suggests
that there is consistent cross-target variance asso-
ciated with particular perceivers when it comes
to predicting empathic accuracy scores. But why
is the amount of “perceiver variance” only slight
to moderate in these studies? According to Ickes
(2011), one answer is likely: Because these studies
included only college-student perceivers, the range
of empathic accuracy scores was highly restricted in
these studies, compared with a hypothetical study
in which the full “spectrum” of empathic ability
(from severely autistic to empathically gifted) is
represented. Given the artifactual constraint of this
range restriction, the evidence for consistent per-
ceiver di erences in empathic accuracy for di erent
target persons is actually quite impressive.
What Other Perceiver Characteristics
Predict Individual Di erences in
Empathic Accuracy?
If individual di erences in empathic accuracy
are real and important, as we have just noted, what
other perceiver characteristics—apart from autistic
impairment—might account for them? At present,
there is only one strong-but-blunt contender in this
category: the change in ability level that is associ-
ated with the perceivers age. So far, the evidence for
other perceiver attributes (abilities, traits, and per-
sonal characteristics) is, by comparison, only weak
and highly equivocal at best.
age
Every developmental psychologist—along with
just about everyone else on the planet—already
knows that infants are incredibly inept mind read-
ers. (Why else would they so rudely scream their
demands at us during the earliest hours of the
morning?).  e maturational change associated
with age—at least during the period from infancy
through middle to late childhood—is a good pre-
dictor of empathic accuracy. However, its predictive
OUP UNCORRECTED PROOF – FIRSTPROOFS, Fri Jan 11 2013, NEWGEN
16_JeffryASimpson_Ch 16.indd 35416_JeffryASimpson_Ch 16.indd 354 1/11/2013 4:24:27 AM1/11/2013 4:24:27 AM
355, 
intelligence and its proxy
variables (i.e., gpa)
Verbal intelligence in particular might be
expected to predict empathic accuracy when using
the methods developed by Ickes and his colleagues
(Ickes, 2001) because these methods rely on put-
ting inferences about the other persons thoughts
into words after having decoded the target per-
sons verbal—as well as nonverbal—messages (see
Gesn & Ickes, 1999). For a while, at least, investiga-
tions of intelligence as a predictor of empathic accu-
racy appeared to be promising. In the very  rst of
their empathic accuracy studies, Ickes et al. (1990)
found that university students’ grade point average
(GPA) predicted their empathic accuracy scores.
Similarly, 18 years later, Ponnet, Buysse, Roeyers,
and De Clercq (2008) reported a signi cant posi-
tive correlation between IQ and empathic accuracy
among their sample of typically developing adults.
On the other hand, several other results have
cast doubts on the relation between intelligence and
empathic accuracy. Ponnet, Roeyers, Buysse, De
Clercq, and Van der Heyden (2004) found no cor-
relation between IQ and empathic accuracy. Ickes
et al. (2000) reported the results of an unpublished
study that failed to replicate the earlier positive
correlation between GPA and empathic accuracy.
More equivocally, Ickes et al. (2000) also reported
the results of a published study in which verbal
intelligence predicted empathic accuracy for men,
but not for women (the association was nonsigni -
cant and negative in the womens data). An attempt
to replicate this  nding found no main e ect for
verbal intelligence and no verbal intelligence by
sex-of-perceiver interaction (Neel & Hodges,
2008). Further complicating this picture,  omas,
Fletcher, and Lange (1997) found that, in hetero-
sexual couples, both the mans level of education and
the womans level of education positively predicted
the man’s empathic accuracy in the couple’s interac-
tions, whereas neither of these variables signi cantly
predicted the womans empathic accuracy.
interpersonal sensitivity skills
Of course, intelligence is a very general ability
(or set of abilities), and one might expect better suc-
cess predicting empathic accuracy from perceivers
scores on skills that also tap some aspect of inter-
personal sensitivity. However, here, too, researchers
have come up mostly empty handed.  e ability
to identify facial expressions using the Diagnostic
Analysis of Nonverbal Accuracy (DANVA;
Nowicki & Duke, 1994) has been inconsistently
men. For example, women show greater empathic
accuracy than men in situations in which they are
explicitly asked to think about how well they are (or
were) able to “read” other people (Graham & Ickes,
1997; Ickes, Gesn, & Graham, 2000).  ey also do
better when they are  rst asked how much empathic
concern (sympathy) they feel for the person whose
thoughts and feelings they are then asked to infer
(Klein & Hodges, 2001).  ese cue-based motiva-
tors may selectively enhance womens, but not mens,
empathic accuracy by reminding the women that
empathy (whether in the form of empathic accu-
racy or empathic concern) is a fundamental part of
the female gender role (Helgeson, 1994; Spence &
Helmreich, 1978). We will turn to “equal opportu-
nity” motivators that can a ect both sexes later in
this chapter.
personality traits conceptually
related to empathy
Surprisingly, personality traits that are concep-
tually related to empathy have largely failed the
test of reliably predicting perceivers’ empathic
accuracy scores. For example, the subscales of the
most widely used self-report measure of empa-
thy, Daviss Interpersonal Reactivity Index (IRI;
1980), are often unrelated to empathic accu-
racy (e.g., Hodges & Klein, 2000), or are “par-
adoxically related,” such that higher scores on
some empathy subscales predict lower empathic
accuracy (e.g., Myers & Hodges, 2009; Stinson &
Ickes, 1992). On the other hand, a study by Zaki
and colleagues (2008) showed that higher empa-
thy scores on the Balanced Emotional Empathy
Scale (Mehrabian & Epstein, 1972) predicted
greater accuracy using a measure that called upon
perceivers to continually assess targets’ emotional
valence, but only when the targets were relatively
high in expressivity.
Self-report measures of ones own empathic abili-
ties are problematic for at least two reasons. First,
they could simply re ect peoples delusions that
they are more (or less) empathically gifted than they
really are. Second, they could also re ect a lack of
meta-knowledge” about ones actual level of ability
in this domain, an explanation that has found some
traction (Ickes, 1993, 2003). Turning—as we will
next—to a construct like intelligence would both
solve the self-report problem and also potentially
increase the chances of  nding a good predictor of
empathic accuracy because intelligence is a more
general cognitive ability (or set of abilities) than
empathic skills per se.
OUP UNCORRECTED PROOF – FIRSTPROOFS, Fri Jan 11 2013, NEWGEN
16_JeffryASimpson_Ch 16.indd 35516_JeffryASimpson_Ch 16.indd 355 1/11/2013 4:24:27 AM1/11/2013 4:24:27 AM
356     
feeling and are asked to rate how easy or di cult
it would be to infer, based on the events in the vid-
eotaped interaction that preceded it.  is index is
signi cantly correlated with perceivers’ empathy
accuracy scores (about .30 to .40 in the studies con-
ducted to date), enabling the researchers to identify
some targets as being reliably “more transparent
than others.
Interestingly, the target’s readability not only
a ects the perceiver’s empathic accuracy directly
but also moderates the e ects of other predictors. As
noted earlier,  omas and Maio (2008) found that
variables designed to motivate perceivers to achieve
greater empathic accuracy had the predicted e ect
only when target persons were relatively easy to
read. Similarly, Zaki et al. (2008), using a measure
of empathic accuracy that asks perceivers to contin-
uously estimate how positive or negative the targets
a ect is, found that the perceivers’ a ective empa-
thy scores predicted empathic accuracy, but only for
emotionally expressive targets. Sillars (2011), not-
ing a pattern in several studies, hypothesized that
target transparency (or “diagnosticity,” as he calls it)
may have a greater impact on empathic accuracy for
strangers than for friends and intimates. In strang-
ers’ interactions, the cues given o by the targets are
one of the only sources of information a perceiver
has to go on, whereas in intimates’ interactions, the
perceiver has background knowledge and perhaps
well-developed theories about the target that may
also in uence inferences about what the target is
thinking or feeling.
Of course, in terms of a global measure of
empathic accuracy, targets can also be thought of
as a sum of their thoughts and feelings. Just as tar-
gets may vary in terms of personality traits such as
expressiveness or transparency, the thoughts and
feelings within a particular target may also vary.
When the studies cited above accounted for target
di erences in transparency, they did so by aggre-
gating across all of the thoughts and feelings the
target person reported—that is, by computing
a summed or mean transparency score for each
target. However, multilevel modeling techniques
allow for nested models, so that characteristics
of individual thoughts and feelings can also be
tracked as predictors of empathic accuracy. Using
this approach, Lewis, Hodges, Laurent, Srivastava,
and Biancarosa (2012) found that, indeed, the
transparency of individual thoughts and feelings
predicted accuracy: When a target’s thought or
feeling corresponded to what the target was cur-
rently talking about, the perceivers accuracy was
linked to empathic accuracy, with a small but sig-
ni cant correlation in an unpublished study by
Lewis (2008) and no correlation in an unpublished
study by Locher (2009).  e Lewis (2008) study
also showed no correlation between empathic accu-
racy and scores on the Interpersonal Perceptions
Task (IPT-15; Costanzo & Archer, 1989), another
measure of nonverbal sensitivity that assesses per-
ceivers’ ability to read cues about interpersonal
interactions from nonverbal behavior. One possible
reason why measures of nonverbal sensitivity do not
predict empathic accuracy is that these measures
are plagued by low internal reliability (Hall, 2001;
Carter & Hall, 2008).
What Target Characteristics Predict
Individual Di erences in Empathic
Accuracy?
As we have just seen, apart from autistic
impairment and the maturational change that
occurs during childhood and early adolescence,
it is di cult to identify any other perceiver char-
acteristics that reliably predict individual di er-
ences in empathic accuracy. Given that di culty,
researchers might want to change their angle of
attack by asking the question: What target char-
acteristics might predict individual di erences in
empathic accuracy?
ere is no doubt that target di erences are also
real and important.  is fact was clearly established
when Ickes et al. (2000) used the logic of the social
relations model (Kenny, 1994) to compare the rela-
tive amounts of perceiver variance and target variance
in empathic accuracy scores across several studies
that used multiple perceivers and multiple targets.
ey found that target variance was always sub-
stantially larger than the perceiver variance in these
studies, a  nding which suggests that the perceivers
empathic accuracy depends heavily on how “read-
able” (i.e., transparent versus opaque) a particular
target persons thoughts and feelings are in relation
to those of other target persons.
5
To capture these di erences more directly and
at their most detailed level of analysis, empathic
accuracy researchers have computed an index of
inferential di culty (an index of how di cult a
given target’s thoughts and feelings are to infer) and
then tested for its e ect as a covariate when ana-
lyzing empathic accuracy scores.
6
Speci cally, these
researchers instruct a separate group of coders to
watch the target’s video and—at each point that the
target person stopped the video to record a thought
or feeling—the coders are shown the thought or
OUP UNCORRECTED PROOF – FIRSTPROOFS, Fri Jan 11 2013, NEWGEN
16_JeffryASimpson_Ch 16.indd 35616_JeffryASimpson_Ch 16.indd 356 1/11/2013 4:24:27 AM1/11/2013 4:24:27 AM
357, 
evidence for the
acquaintanceship effect
One way to operationally de ne “type of rela-
tionship” is in terms of how long the relationship
partners have known each other. In two dyadic
interaction studies that compared the empathic
accuracy achieved by total strangers (who had never
met before) with that of close friends (who had
known each other for at least a year), the results
revealed mean accuracy scores of about 20 percent
for the strangers and about 30 percent for the close
friends (Stinson & Ickes, 1992; Graham, 1994). In
a similar study,  omas and Fletcher (2003) com-
pared the empathic accuracy of strangers, friends,
and dating partners. Planned comparisons revealed
that dating partners were signi cantly more accu-
rate than both friends and strangers; however, the
di erence between friends and strangers was not
signi cant in this study.
Interestingly, other research  ndings suggest
that these di erences are due less to the length
of time involved than to how well the perceiver
gets to know the target in whatever time period is
being considered. For example, Marangoni et al.
(1995) found that perceivers could rapidly “get
to know” targets who they merely viewed in vid-
eotapes of simulated therapy sessions. First, the
results supported the commonsense prediction
that the perceivers would infer the thoughts and
feelings of these client targets signi cantly better at
the end of the videotaped session than at its begin-
ning. Second, the results showed that the rate of
this improvement could be further accelerated by
giving some of the perceivers veridical feedback
about the target persons actual thought or feeling
immediately following each reported inference.
is second  nding suggests that it is possible to
speed up” both the acquaintanceship process and
the development of the perceivers empathic accu-
racy, at least in regard to highly disclosing targets
who are willing to express what they are currently
thinking and feeling.
e Marangoni et al. (1995) study was the  rst
to suggest that acquaintanceship is not just a matter
of the amount of time that the perceiver is exposed
to the target, although that factor undoubtedly plays
a role. But “time” is clearly not the e ective variable
in itself; rather, it is a proxy variable for the events
that take place within its span. We can think about
those events as providing the information from
which empathically accurate inferences are derived.
But what kinds of information are important in this
regard?
higher than when the target’s thought or feeling
was less directly related to what the target was say-
ing at the time.
Lewis and colleagues also examined whether
another characteristic of individual thoughts and
feelings could predict empathic accuracy.  e tar-
gets in their study were all  rst-time mothers dis-
cussing their adjustment to new motherhood, and
coders rated the content of each of their thoughts
and feelings for stereotypicality.  oughts and feel-
ings such as “I was thinking how exhausting it is
to have a newborn baby and how challenging it
was to  nd time for myself” got higher stereotypic
marks; in contrast, thoughts and feelings such as
“I was feeling sad—as if the pre-baby me has been
lost—I dont know where ‘shes’ gone” were rated
lower in stereotypicality. Above and beyond trans-
parency, greater thought/feeling stereotypicality also
predicted empathic accuracy. Notably, the e ects of
stereotypicality in this study were moderated by
how much personal information the target person
was seen as disclosing: Stereotypicality was a better
predictor of empathic accuracy for targets who were
seen as disclosing less personal (i.e., individuating)
information about their experiences.
Empathic Accuracy in
Close Relationships
So far, we have considered some perceiver- and
target-relevant variables that predict individual
di erences in empathic accuracy. We now con-
sider variables that are relevant to the relationship
between the perceiver and the target. We  rst con-
sider evidence for the acquaintanceship e ect , which
should in uence empathic accuracy through the
increasing amount of knowledge that relationship
partners acquire about each other. We then consider
motivational in uences on empathic accuracy, both
the ones that the partners bring with them to the
relationship in the form of personality dispositions
and the ones that emerge as a product of the unfold-
ing dynamics of the relationship.
e Acquaintanceship E ect
One of the  rst commonsense predictions that
was tested in empathic accuracy research con-
cerned the type of relationship that currently
existed between the perceiver and the target. If we
found that close friends displayed greater empathic
accuracy than total strangers did, this  nding would
not only con rm a commonsense belief but also,
by implication, help to con rm the validity of the
empathic accuracy measure itself.
OUP UNCORRECTED PROOF – FIRSTPROOFS, Fri Jan 11 2013, NEWGEN
16_JeffryASimpson_Ch 16.indd 35716_JeffryASimpson_Ch 16.indd 357 1/11/2013 4:24:27 AM1/11/2013 4:24:27 AM
358     
events occurring in another time or place, but only
if they had already discussed the events in question.
Her results provided strong support for this hypoth-
esis. Similarly, Kelleher, Ickes, and Dugosh (2003)
found that perceivers could more accurately infer
the thoughts and feelings relevant to a target per-
sons hidden agenda when they already knew that
the hidden agenda existed. In addition,  omas,
Fletcher, and Lange (1997) reported that married
couples could “read” each others thoughts and feel-
ings more accurately to the extent that they already
had what the researchers called a “shared cognitive
focus.
Motivational In uences on Empathic
Accuracy in Close Relationships
Perceivers not only know more about close oth-
ers than about strangers and casual acquaintances
they also tend to care more about close others than
about strangers and casual acquaintances.  is dis-
tinction is important, because knowing more and
caring more are often confounded in studies of the
acquaintanceship e ect. It is noteworthy, therefore,
that the motivation to accurately infer a particular
partner’s thoughts and feelings has proved to make
an important, independent contribution to perceiv-
ers’ empathic accuracy scores. And, as we will see, the
strength and speci city of the perceiver’s motive to
be accurate or inaccurate can derive from a number
of sources: (1) situational motivators (e.g., explicit or
implicit rewards for being accurate); (2) the actors
personal characteristics (e.g., personality traits that
motivate and/or bias the perceivers empathic infer-
ence making); (3) the partner’s personal character-
istics (e.g., the partner’s physical attractiveness);
or—and most commonly—(4) motives that emerge
naturally in the context of the actor–partner rela-
tionship (e.g., the motive to ignore or discount the
other’s perspective when the partners want di erent
and irreconcilable outcomes).
situational motivators of
empathic accuracy
Although the manipulations used in the lab to
transiently a ect motivation are necessarily a bit
contrived, they resemble common real-world moti-
vators—for example, money and sex. With regard
to the former, Klein and Hodges (2001) found that
participants who were promised payment commen-
surate with their empathic accuracy performance
were more accurate than participants who were not
told they would be paid. With regard to the latter,
omas and Maio (2008) boosted male perceivers
informational bases of the
acquaintanceship effect
One possibility is that it is important to know
a lot of background information “about” the other
person, including the persons age, ethnicity, religion,
family members, pets, dating partners, work experi-
ence, career goals, travels, and leisure-time interests.
Gesn (1995) assessed the degree of such background
knowledge that pairs of same-sex acquaintances and
pairs of same-sex friends had about each other. He
also asked them to rate how “close” they perceived
their relationship to be. Finally, he covertly video-
taped them during a brief, unstructured laboratory
interaction and then gave them the opportunity to
try to infer each other’s thoughts and feelings.  e
results revealed that the dyad members’ empathic
accuracy could not be predicted from the measure
of how much background knowledge they had
about each other. Instead, it was predicted by how
close” they rated their interaction as being.
But what, in this context, does it mean to be
close”? From an informational standpoint, closeness
involves having a high level of cognitive interdepen-
dence with another person. Cognitive interdepen-
dence is evidenced by the partners’ possession of a
large amount of shared, “common-ground” knowl-
edge, much of which has been co-created and
reinforced through the history of conversations
the partners have had with each other (Wegner,
Giuliano, & Hertel, 1985).
With regard to empathic accuracy, there is con-
siderable evidence that shared, common-ground
knowledge is particularly important when one
person tries to infer the speci c content of another
persons thoughts and feelings. For example, Stinson
and Ickes (1992) predicted that the empathic accu-
racy of close friends would be positively correlated
with the percentage of their thoughts and feelings
that focused on events occurring at another place
and time, whereas the empathic accuracy of strang-
ers would be negatively correlated with this index.
e rationale for this prediction was that the friends
could base their empathic inferences on their history
of shared, common-ground knowledge concern-
ing such far-removed events, whereas the strangers
could not. Con rming the prediction, Stinson and
Ickes (1992) found that the relevant correlation was
+.35 for the friends and –.54 for the strangers in
their study, and the di erence between these two
correlations was statistically signi cant.
In a follow-up study, Graham (1994) predicted
that strangers could also make accurate inferences
regarding each others thoughts and feelings about
OUP UNCORRECTED PROOF – FIRSTPROOFS, Fri Jan 11 2013, NEWGEN
16_JeffryASimpson_Ch 16.indd 35816_JeffryASimpson_Ch 16.indd 358 1/11/2013 4:24:27 AM1/11/2013 4:24:27 AM
359, 
and correctly predict his answers to the interview
questions (Dugosh, 1998, 2001).
partner-based motivators
of empathic accuracy
In the very  rst empathic accuracy study, Ickes
et al. (1990) found that that perceivers’ empathic
accuracy increased as the physical attractiveness of
their opposite-sex interaction partner increased. It
is reasonable to speculate that the partner’s physical
attractiveness motivated the perceiver to want to get
to know the partner better, and that this increased
motivation resulted in greater empathic accuracy.
Other desirable qualities associated with a particu-
lar target (e.g., a penetrating intellect, a charismatic
personality) may also increase the perceivers moti-
vation to be empathically accurate, but the e ects of
these qualities have not yet been tested.
relationship-based motivators
of empathic accuracy
For decades, the research  ndings on the role of
interpersonal accuracy in relationships presented a
maddeningly inconsistent picture. Although most
investigators reported a positive correlation between
some measure of interpersonal accuracy (e.g., accu-
racy regarding the partners traits, attitudes, role
expectations, or self-perceptions) and relation-
ship satisfaction and stability, some investigators
reported negative associations instead (for speci c
citations of these con icting studies, see Ickes and
Simpson, 1997, p. 223).
e key to reconciling these con icting  ndings
was provided by Sillars’ (1985) insight that greater
accuracy was associated with reduced marital satis-
faction when the perceivers insights exposed infor-
mation that was threatening to the relationship
(e.g., irreconcilable di erences, blunt and unpleas-
ant truths, or benevolent misconceptions about the
relationship that could no longer be sustained).
In short, when it reveals information that has
the potential to threaten the relationship, greater
inferential accuracy hurts, rather than helps, close
relationships.
is insight led Ickes and Simpson (1997, 2001)
to propose that although partners in close relation-
ships are often motivated to accurately infer each
other’s thoughts and feelings (e.g., in order to coor-
dinate their goals and plans, work cooperatively,
meet each other’s needs, and be sensitive to each
other’s feelings), they are sometimes motivated to
inaccurately infer each other’s thoughts and feel-
ings instead. To clarify when relationship partners
empathic accuracy by telling them that women were
more sexually attracted to men who were sensitive
to other peoples thoughts and feelings.
ere appear to be limits to the e ects of situ-
ationally manipulating empathic motivation, how-
ever. For example, the promise of adoring women
did not a ect mens empathic accuracy performance
in the  omas and Maio study when the female
targets were very di cult to read; not surprisingly,
motivation appears to work best when the task is
challenging but not impossible.
Other situational motivators “work” by chal-
lenging individuals to be more empathically accu-
rate in order to sustain a desired self-image rather
than a self-presentation that is intended only to
impress other people. For example,  omas and
Maio (2008) showed that women—but not men—
were more empathically accurate after being given
information that challenged their empathic skill as
women. Once again, the e ects held only for “read-
able” targets, whereas no di erence was found for
very di cult to read targets.
omas and Maios results suggest that cues
that call attention to having an empathic concern
for others may selectively motivate the empathic
accuracy of women but not men. On the one hand,
because caring for and understanding others is
part of the female gender role (Helgeson, 1994),
these “women only” motivators support the idea
that empathic accuracy is part of the larger, mul-
tidimensional construct of empathy (Davis, 1983;
Hodges & Biswas-Diener, 2007). On the other
hand, knowing that the lure of attracting mates or
money can motivate men to be more empathically
accurate reminds us that, despite its empathic  rst
name, empathic accuracy may be used to get what
we as perceivers want from others, rather than
being exclusively focused on their needs.
perceiver-based motivators
of empathic accuracy
Empathic accuracy is also motivated by
perceiver-based motives that are associated with
speci c personality traits. For example, people
with higher scores on the Need to Belong Scale
performed better on standard stimulus empathic
accuracy task than those with lower scores (Pickett,
Gardner, & Knowles, 2004). In addition, anxiously
attached women (i.e., women with a high fear of
abandonment) who listened to their male dating
partners being interviewed by an attractive female
interviewer were more likely than less anxious
women to closely monitor their partner’s behavior
OUP UNCORRECTED PROOF – FIRSTPROOFS, Fri Jan 11 2013, NEWGEN
16_JeffryASimpson_Ch 16.indd 35916_JeffryASimpson_Ch 16.indd 359 1/11/2013 4:24:27 AM1/11/2013 4:24:27 AM
360     
them without any further questions. Nothing in her
behavior indicated that she was motivated to know
what was going on. In fact, her entire pattern of
behavior indicated just the opposite: that she was
motivated to not know what was going on, either
in her husband’s mind or in his activities away from
home (Ickes, 2003, p. 228).
is phenomenon of motivated inaccuracy was
too interesting not to pursue as a topic for research,
so Simpson, Ickes, and Blackstone (1995) invented
a procedure to study it in a laboratory setting. In
this procedure, heterosexual dating partners came
to the lab and independently completed various
personality measures, as well as measures of how
much they relied on each other (i.e., were inter-
dependent) and how secure or insecure they felt
about the future of their relationship. After com-
pleting these measures, the partners were reunited
for a study of “what makes individuals attractive as
potential dating partners.
e dating partners’ task was to view and rate a
series of slides of “other students on campus” who
were said to be currently unattached and available
as potential dating partners. By a  ip of the coin,
either the male or the female dating partner began
the task by viewing slides of available partners of the
opposite sex and rating them aloud on the dimen-
sions of physical attractiveness and sexual appeal8
while sitting right next to his or her dating partner!
en the partners switched roles: the other dating
partner now viewed and rated slides of available
partners of the opposite sex while the  rst partner
sat, watched along, and listened to the resulting
ratings. During this time, each couples interaction
was covertly recorded by a concealed video camera
mounted in the corner of the room. After the rating
session was over, the partners were placed in sepa-
rate rooms, where they each viewed a copy of the
videotaped rating session two times:  rst, to report
each of their own thoughts and feelings; and next,
to make inferences about their partner’s thoughts
and feelings.
Of particular interest was the subset of par-
ticipants who should have found the rating task
to be especially threatening: participants who
(1) depended a lot on their partners, but (2) were
insecure about the future of their relationship, and
(3) were in a session in which only highly attractive
alternative partners were viewed and rated aloud.  e
results showed that these participants were indeed
highly threatened and that this threat resulted, as
predicted, in motivated inaccuracy—chance-level
accuracy that was presumably the outcome of their
are motivated to be more accurate, and when they
are motivated to be less accurate, Ickes and Simpson
(1997, 2001) proposed the empathic accuracy model ,
which we consider next. Because the model is com-
plex, and because the research inspired by it war-
rants a detailed examination, we devote all of the
next section to it.
e Original and Revised Empathic
Accuracy Model
e impetus for developing the original version
of the empathic accuracy model was the empirical
demonstration by Simpson, Ickes, and Blackstone
(1995) of the phenomenon they labeled motivated
inaccuracy . For this reason, it is appropriate to
describe how the early research on motivated inac-
curacy led to the more comprehensive model of
empathic accuracy in close relationships that Ickes
and Simpson (1997, 2001) later proposed.
Motivated Inaccuracy
It is important to keep in mind that motiva-
tion is a slippery construct.  ere is a temptation
to assume that any manipulation that results in
improved performance was mediated by an increase
in motivation even though directly measuring moti-
vation can often be impossible.  ere is also as a
tendency to assume that increased motivation will
always result in a performance increase, rather than
a decrement or no change (Hall, 2011). An even
more fundamental insight regarding the relation
between motivation and empathic accuracy has
emerged from empathic accuracy studies that have
revealed evidence for motivated inaccuracy , a phe-
nomenon that occurs when people are motivated not
to know what their interaction partners are thinking
and feeling, particularly when accurate inferences
have the potential to reveal relationship-threatening
information.
e rst of these motivated inaccuracy studies, by
Simpson, Ickes, and Blackstone (1995), was inspired
by a real-life incident that William Ickes shared with
Je ry Simpson about a woman who refused to see
any of the all-too-obvious signs that her husband
was having an a air: e mans schedule became
more erratic; he was away from home many eve-
nings and occasionally during the weekends. And
there were unexplained phone hang-ups and other
signs that, if investigated, would have suggested that
he was involved with another woman.
But these signs werent investigated—not at all.
e mans wife rarely asked him about his absences,
and she immediately accepted his explanation of
OUP UNCORRECTED PROOF – FIRSTPROOFS, Fri Jan 11 2013, NEWGEN
16_JeffryASimpson_Ch 16.indd 36016_JeffryASimpson_Ch 16.indd 360 1/11/2013 4:24:27 AM1/11/2013 4:24:27 AM
361, 
threatening (as rated by both the partners and by
trained observers), greater empathic accuracy
on the part of the perceiver was associated with
pretest-to-posttest declines in the perceivers feeling
of closeness to the partner.  e reverse was true when
the partner’s thoughts and feelings were nonthreat-
ening: in this case, greater accuracy was associated
with a pretest-to-posttest increase in the perceiver’s
feeling of closeness to the partner.  us, as we noted
in the introduction to this chapter, everyday mind
reading is neither entirely bad nor entirely good.
Our empathic accuracy sometimes hurts, but at
other times helps, our close relationships, depend-
ing upon what it reveals about the content of our
relationship partner’s thoughts and feelings.
e Revised Empathic Accuracy Model
Ickes and Simpson (2001) revised their empathic
accuracy model a few years after the original version
appeared (Ickes & Simpson, 1997). Schematically,
the revised model still looked essentially the same
as the one in Figure 16.3. So what was di erent
this time around? More than anything else, it was
the authors’ recognition that people have a variety
of relationship-relevant motives, and that these
motives can lead them to “manage” their empathic
accuracy (and inaccuracy) in characteristically dif-
ferent ways.
anxiously attached individuals
Consider, for example, how anxiously attached
individuals (particularly women) react in
relationship-threatening situations:
In sharp contrast to low-anxious women in
the Simpson et al. (1995) study, high-anxious
women displayed greater accuracy, rather than
motivated inaccuracy, when it appeared that
their male partners were harboring thoughts and
feelings that were threatening to the relationship
(Simpson, Ickes, & Grich, 1999). In the terms
of attachment theory, the high-anxious women
became “hypervigilant” when their relationship
was threatened and their attachment system was
activated.  ey acted as if they just had to know
what their male partner was thinking and feeling,
even if that knowledge was going to hurt the
relationship.
Similarly, high-anxious women in
the studies by Dugosh (1998, 2001) were
more accurate than low-anxious women in
predicting their male partner’s answers to
a series of questions from an attractive and
not wanting to know what their dating partner was
thinking and feeling.
e Empathic Accuracy Model
is and several other  ndings that resulted from
the dating couples study (see also Simpson, Ickes, &
Grich, 1999) led Ickes and Simpson to develop a
theoretical model—the empathic accuracy model
that might be su cient not only to account for their
existing results but also to predict some novel  nd-
ings as well (Ickes & Simpson, 1997, 2001). Because
it is di cult to describe the model concisely using
words alone, Figure 16.3 provides a schematic pic-
ture of the original version of the empathic accuracy
model that captures its essential features.
e model is premised on the assumption that
the desire to have a good relationship is an impor-
tant motivator of both empathic accuracy and
empathic in accuracy. e model presumes that, in
general, people try to understand others better in
order to develop and maintain close relationships
with them.  ese processes are depicted on the
right-hand side of Figure 16.3. On the other hand,
when the partner’s thoughts and feelings have the
potential to threaten and destabilize the relationship,
the model presumes that certain types of people (to
be identi ed below) will use motivated inaccuracy
as a way to de ect the potential threat, that is, to
stay out of the partner’s head and not know or even
want to know the relationship-threatening thoughts
and feelings that the partner might be harboring.
ese processes are depicted on the left-hand side
of Figure 16.3.
e empathic accuracy model made an impor-
tant new prediction. According to the model’s
logic, the perceivers empathic accuracy should be
positively correlated with relationship stability and
satisfaction when the partner’s thoughts and feel-
ings are not relationship threatening, but should be
negatively correlated with these outcomes when the
partner’s thoughts and feelings have the potential to
threaten the relationship.
is prediction was tested in a study by Simpson,
Oriña, and Ickes (2003). In this study, ninety- ve
married couples were videotaped as they tried to
resolve a problem in their marriage. Following
the couples con ict interaction, the spouses inde-
pendently viewed a videotape of the interaction,
recorded the thoughts and feelings they had at spe-
ci c time points, and tried to infer their partner’s
thoughts and feelings.
Consistent with the model’s prediction, when
the partner’s thoughts and feelings were relationship
OUP UNCORRECTED PROOF – FIRSTPROOFS, Fri Jan 11 2013, NEWGEN
16_JeffryASimpson_Ch 16.indd 36116_JeffryASimpson_Ch 16.indd 361 1/11/2013 4:24:27 AM1/11/2013 4:24:27 AM
362     
Is the situation perceived as one likely to evoke
evidence that the partner harbors thoughts and
feelings that would cause the perceiver distress?
Ye s
Ye s
Ye s Ye s
Do dispositional and/or situational
factors constrain the perceiver to
enter and/or remain in the situation?
No
No
No
No No No No
Exit
situation
Enter/stay in situation
Does the perceiver feel highly
threatened in this situation?
Empathic
accuracy
is low
OUTCOME: For highly threatened
perceivers, personal and relational
stress remain manageably low, and
the relationship is experienced as
stable.
For less threatened perceivers,
personal and relational distress
are somewhat higher, and the
relationship is experienced as
somewhat unstable.
OUTCOME: For all perceivers,
personal and relational distress
are low, and the relationship
is experienced as stable.
OUTCOME: For highly threatened
perceivers, personal and relational
distress are high, and the
relationship is experienced as
highly unstable.
For less threatened perceivers,
personal and relational distress
are moderately high, and the
relationship is experienced as
moderately unstable.
Empathic
accuracy is
moderate
Empathic
accuracy is
moderate
Empathic
accuracy is
moderately
high
Empathic
accuracy is
moderately
high
Empathic
accuracy
is high
Does the perceiver feel highly
threatened in this situation?
Does the perceiver feel highly
threatened in this situation?
Is the evidence of the partner’s
potentially nondistressing thoughts
and feelings ambiguous
(vs. unambiguous)?
Ye s
No
Ye s
Is the evidence of the partner’s
potentially distressing thoughts
and feelings ambiguous (vs.
unambiguous)?
Figure 16.3 e empathic accuracy model (Ickes & Simpson, 1997, 2001).
OUP UNCORRECTED PROOF – FIRSTPROOFS, Fri Jan 11 2013, NEWGEN
16_JeffryASimpson_Ch 16.indd 36216_JeffryASimpson_Ch 16.indd 362 1/11/2013 4:24:27 AM1/11/2013 4:24:27 AM
363, 
partners relative to other people, and they placed
less value on knowing more about their partners
in the future.  is nding is reminiscent of Ickes,
Hutchison, and Masheks (2004) earlier  nding
that “closeness averse” individuals are distinctive in
reporting that they do not want to know all about
their partner or to have their partner know all about
them.
ese ndings make sense if we assume, as
attachment theorists do, that avoidantly attached
individuals have a strong motive to avoid becom-
ing close to and dependent upon others (Hazan &
Shaver, 1987, 1994; Kobak & Sceery, 1988).
Because the intersubjective “sharing” of highly per-
sonal information is an important form of closeness
(Ickes et al., 2004; Wegner et al., 1985), it makes
sense that avoidantly attached individuals would
generally shun such information.
maritally aggressive and abusive men
Yet another style of “managing” empathic accu-
racy is displayed by maritally aggressive and abu-
sive men. Schweinle, Ickes, and Bernstein (2002)
found that such men were biased toward inferring
that women harbored critical and rejecting feelings
toward them. Moreover, the more pronounced this
bias was, the less accurately these men inferred the
thoughts and feelings of women who described
their marital problems, and the more they reported
abusing their own wives.
Schweinle and Ickes (2007) suggested that abu-
sive men use a form of motivated inaccuracy to
maintain their power and control over women.  ey
found that such men are signi cantly more likely
than nonabusive men to disattend (i.e., “tune out”)
a womans complaints and to react to them with
feelings of contempt rather than sympathy.  ese
reactions appear to sustain and reinforce the abu-
sive mens bias that they “already know” what is on
womens minds (i.e., critical and rejecting thoughts
and feelings about their male partners), making it
easy for them to justify their continued abuse of
their own female partners (“She had it coming”).
Providing further support for this interpretation,
Clements, Holtzworth-Munroe, Schweinle, and
Ickes (2007) found that abusive men were selec-
tively inaccurate: their empathic accuracy was low
in regard to their own wives’ thoughts and feelings,
but not in regard to the thoughts and feelings of
other women. And, more recently, Robillard and
Noller (2011) found evidence that abusive men
are particularly poor at inferring their wives’ more
positive and loving thoughts and feelings, perhaps
irtatious female interviewer—another type of
relationship-threatening situation.
7
Finally, in two studies reported by Simpson,
Kim, et al. (2011), high-anxious individuals were
relatively more accurate when they discussed
intimacy issues that posed a potential threat to
their relationship (in Study 1), and when they
were rated as more distressed while discussing a
relationship con ict (in Study 2).
ese ndings make sense if we assume, as
attachment theorists do, that anxiously attached
individuals have a strong motive to attend to and
evaluate potential threats to their relationship
because of their fear of being abandoned by their
partners (Kobak & Sceery, 1988; Mikulincer &
Shaver, 2003; Simpson, 1990).
avoidantly attached individuals
A very di erent style of “managing” empathic
accuracy is displayed by avoidantly attached indi-
viduals. In further analyses of the data collected by
Simpson, Ickes, and Blackstone (1995), Simpson,
Ickes, and Grich (1999) discovered that avoidantly
attached individuals were generally reluctant to
infer what their dating partners were thinking and
feeling (as evidenced by the fact that they often
de ed the task instructions by refusing to make an
empathic inference!). It is important to note that
this reluctance was not found only in the more
relationship-threatening conditions of the Simpson
et al. (1995) study; it was found across all conditions.
Similarly, Simpson, Kim, et al. (2011) found that
relationship partners who scored high in avoidant
attachment displayed lower empathic accuracy than
those who scored low in avoidant attachment—an
e ect that was consistent across both relationship
type (marriage versus dating) and the level of threat
they experienced.
Other evidence also suggests that avoidantly
attached individuals have a general preference to
stay out of their romantic partners’ heads, rather
than one that is limited to relationship-threatening
situations. For example, Rholes, Simpson, Tran,
Martin, and Friedman (2007) gave highly avoidant
people an opportunity to obtain new information
about their romantic partners’ private thoughts and
feelings, their thoughts about the future of the rela-
tionship, or their preferences for mundane things
(e.g., movies, music). Even in this nonthreatening
situation, highly avoidant people did not want to
learn more private information about their partners.
ey also admitted that they knew less about their
OUP UNCORRECTED PROOF – FIRSTPROOFS, Fri Jan 11 2013, NEWGEN
16_JeffryASimpson_Ch 16.indd 36316_JeffryASimpson_Ch 16.indd 363 1/11/2013 4:24:28 AM1/11/2013 4:24:28 AM
364     
about his drinking when it isnt a problem at all.
Because Ruth and Calvin “frame” the situation dif-
ferently and are unwilling to give serious credence
to the other persons frame, they remain willfully
stuck in their own perspectives—refusing to reach
a common understanding or to compromise in any
meaningful way.
Empathic Accuracy and Interaction
Outcomes
Does empathic accuracy predict success in social
interactions?  e answer might seem obvious: How
could knowing what people are thinking not lead to
better outcomes in social interactions? Indeed, the
relevant research evidence suggests that, in general,
greater empathic accuracy really is associated with
more positive relationship outcomes, and we will
review that evidence shortly. Before we do, however,
we would like to advise the reader to keep in mind
two important reasons why greater accuracy may
not always lead to positive outcomes.
e rst reason, as discussed previously, is that
people may sometimes want to avoid knowing what
other people are thinking or feeling, particularly in
relationship contexts in which those thoughts and
feelings may threaten the relationship. We know
from various lines of research that there are times
when an inaccurate but more charitable view of
ones partner predicts positive relationship outcomes
(Murray & Holmes, 1997; Rusbult, Finkel, &
Kumashiro, 2009).  us, under some circum-
stances, less inaccurate inferences about another
persons thoughts—whether that other person is an
intimate partner or not—may lead to more harmo-
nious interactions.
Examining the other side of this phenomenon,
Simpson and colleagues’ (2011) has shown how
the greater empathic accuracy of anxiously attached
individuals who discuss relationship-threatening
topics does not lead to soothing, supportive interac-
tions, and indeed, there is evidence that anxiously
attached individuals’ greater accuracy can lead to
lower evaluations of their relationships and greater
likelihood of relationship dissolution (Simpson,
Ickes, & Grich, 1999).
e second reason greater empathic accuracy
may not lead to more positive outcomes is that
knowing what another person is thinking moment
by moment may not be essential for social success.
Severe de cits in understanding others’ intentions
and perspectives, such as those seen in people with
autism spectrum disorder (ASD), clearly seem
to negatively a ect social interactions. However,
because they believe that most of their partner’s
thoughts and feelings are critical and rejecting.
Collectively, these  ndings suggest that empathic
accuracy can also be “managed” in the service of jus-
tifying ones continued abusive treatment of a rela-
tionship partner. By tuning out the partner, treating
her complaints with contempt, and “already know-
ing” the critical and rejecting things that she is
thinking and feeling, an abusive man can continue
to control, manipulate, and abuse her—even if the
long-term cost of this management style is the death
of the relationship itself.
role-specific and
relationship-specific factors
Although the revised empathic accuracy model did
not consider role-speci c and relationship-speci c
factors, the importance of such factors to empathic
accuracy has been noted in other sources.
With regard to role-speci c factors, Vervoort,
Crombez, et al. (2007) examined the empathic accu-
racy of the parents of adolescents with chronic fatigue
syndrome (CFS).  ey found that the mothers were
more empathically accurate regarding the adoles-
cent’s CFS-related thoughts and feelings when the
adolescent was more distressed. In contrast, fathers
were less empathically accurate regarding such
thoughts feelings when they themselves were more
distressed.  e researchers attributed this di erence
to the di erent roles that the mothers and fathers
play. Because the mothers were the child’s primary
caregivers, they had presumably learned to be more
sensitive to the child’s CFS-related thoughts and
feelings when the child was more distressed. On the
other hand, because the fathers were the primary
breadwinners whose attention was required else-
where, they were presumably less able to focus on
their child’s condition when they themselves were
distressed.
With regard to relationship-speci c factors, Sillars
(2011) has argued that misunderstandings are often
driven by the perceivers’ current needs, including
the need to feel personally vindicated (“I’m right
and youre wrong”). Misunderstandings are particu-
larly problematic when the partners adopt di erent
con ict frames” that they cling to rigidly during
their con ict discussions, and when they selectively
introduce information that is intended to advance
their own interests and viewpoint at the expense of
the partner’s. For example, Ruth thinks that the
major problem in their relationship is that Calvin
has a serious drinking problem, whereas Calvin
thinks the major problem is that Ruth nags him
OUP UNCORRECTED PROOF – FIRSTPROOFS, Fri Jan 11 2013, NEWGEN
16_JeffryASimpson_Ch 16.indd 36416_JeffryASimpson_Ch 16.indd 364 1/11/2013 4:24:28 AM1/11/2013 4:24:28 AM
365, 
In another study demonstrating the relation
between empathic accuracy and social success, per-
ceivers inferred the thoughts of videotaped female
targets who were all discussing the experience of
recently having become new mothers (Ahnert,
Klein, Veach, & Hodges, 2001). When the targets
later had a chance to rate how much they liked the
perceivers and how well the perceiver understood
them, based on the inferences that perceivers made
of their thoughts and letters that the perceivers
wrote to the new mothers, perceivers who had done
a better job of inferring the targets’ thoughts got
higher marks.
However, the association between empathic
accuracy and rapport appears to be less consistent
or more complicated than suggested by the Ahnert
et al. results. Myers (2009) conducted a study in
which participants interacted as dyads before infer-
ring each other’s thoughts and found that partners
who had greater empathic accuracy did not also
have greater rapport. When people have a chance to
interact face to face, as they did in the Myers study,
empathic accuracys e ects on liking and rapport
may be swamped by other qualities, such as per-
sonality traits, physical attractiveness, or the con-
text of the interaction.  us, just as Sillars (2011)
suggests that there may be di erent weights on the
determinants of empathic accuracy for strangers
and intimates, it may also be the case that empathic
accuracy is weighted di erently in determining the
outcomes of di erent kinds of interactions.
Turning away now from general social success
and more speci cally to how empathic accuracy
may lead to better outcomes in close relationships,
there are some intuitively supportive results. Greater
empathic accuracy appears to help close relation-
ships when:
perceivers use it to identify their partners
current need for support and how to provide
the particular type and amount of instrumental
support that the partner currently desires
(Verhofstadt, Ickes, & Buysse, 2010; Verhofstadt,
Davis, & Ickes, 2011);
perceivers use it preemptively to anticipate
and avoid con icts with the partner and to solve
small problems before they turn into larger ones
(Simpson, Ickes, & Oriña, 2001);
perceivers use it to “stay on the same page
with the partner, applying the same interpretive
frame to the current situation and tracking the
changes in the frames that the partner applies
(Go man, 1974; Ickes, 2003, chapter 8; Noller,
beyond some “normal” minimal threshold, addi-
tional empathic accuracy may not bring correspond-
ing additional social success. A “good enough” level
of empathic accuracy may be perfectly functional
(Myers & Hodges, 2009).
Consistent with this idea, across many studies of
empathic accuracy using the paradigm developed by
Ickes and his colleagues, mean empathic accuracy
is always far from perfect, and rarely even reaches
the halfway point of the scale. People may wonder
what is going through other peoples minds, and
they may wish they knew, but this doesnt neces-
sarily mean that their lives and relationships would
be dramatically improved if they did know. In a
healthy relationship, information that it is impor-
tant for relationship partners to share is likely to be
communicated in direct, face-to-face conversation.
In fact, relying excessively or exclusively on
mind reading,” as the vignette opening this chap-
ter suggests, may signify a relationship in trouble.
Other variables such as simply being respectful and
kind to each other (Gottman & Levenson, 1992)
have been shown to explain the lions share of vari-
ance in the success of close relationships. Empathic
accuracy within relationships may be analogous to
how much money a couple in a relationship has.
When the quantity goes below a certain level, the
relationship really su ers. However, at some point
above the minimum required to meet essential
needs, more is not necessarily better, and in fact,
in some cases (when greater accuracy leads to more
accurate perception of threats to the relationship),
more may actually be worse.
When Empathic Accuracy Helps
ese two caveats aside, empathic accuracy has
been linked with social success, and in some cases,
speci cally with relationship success. Examining the
connection between empathic accuracy and general
positive social outcomes, Gleason, Jensen-Campbell,
and Ickes (2009) found young adolescents who scored
better at empathic accuracy were less likely to experi-
ence “relational victimization” (e.g., were less likely
to be ignored, ostracized, or badmouthed by their
peers) and were also less susceptible to internalizing
problems (e.g., depressive symptoms, withdrawal).
Furthermore, empathic accuracy appeared to serve as
a bu er against the e ects that poor peer relations
(e.g., poor friendship quality or high levels of victim-
ization) tend to have on adjustment problems (inter-
nalizing problems as well as externalizing problems
such as aggression, and social problems such as being
disliked by peers or being viewed as immature).
OUP UNCORRECTED PROOF – FIRSTPROOFS, Fri Jan 11 2013, NEWGEN
16_JeffryASimpson_Ch 16.indd 36516_JeffryASimpson_Ch 16.indd 365 1/11/2013 4:24:28 AM1/11/2013 4:24:28 AM
366     
When Empathic Accuracy Hurts Close
Relationships
Just as people can “dial up” their everyday
mind-reading skills in order to understand the part-
ner better and to apply that knowledge to improve
the relationship, they can also “dial down” their
everyday mind-reading skills in order to avoid learn-
ing things about their partner’s thoughts and feelings
that might harm, rather than help, the relationship.
is means that empathic accuracy is a two-edged
sword that can cut both ways—often making the
partners’ relationship better, but sometimes making
the relationship worse. Greater empathic accuracy
appears to hurt close relationships when:
perceivers uncover blunt, unpleasant truths
about each other’s private thoughts and feelings
that could undermine their views of each other and
of their relationship (Aldous, 1977; Rausch, Barry,
Hertel, & Swain, 1974; Sillars, 1985; Watzlawick,
Weakland, & Fisch, 1974);
perceivers discover that their di erences
are greater than they previously believed, or
are apparently irreconcilable, so that extended
discussion and clari cation of their respective
viewpoints will not improve the relationship, but
only make things worse (Aldous, 1977; Kursh,
1971; Sillars, 1985);
perceivers discover that certain “benign
misconceptions” they have previously held about
each other are false and can no longer be sustained
(Levinger & Breedlove, 1966; Sillars, 1985);
perceivers use their empathic insights to
torture each other and “push each other’s buttons,
like the characters George and Martha in Edward
Albees play Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf (Ickes,
2003, chapter 11); and
perceivers insist on knowing virtually
everything that their partners are thinking or
feeling, to the point that their partners feel
violated, intruded upon, and lacking any sense
of privacy within their own minds (Ickes, 2003,
chapter 1).
Accordingly, in response to Jean Tracy’s claim
that we are all better o not even trying to “read”
our relationship partners’ minds, our answer would
be that it’s just not that simple.  ere are several
ways in which accurate everyday mind reading
makes our relationships better, and several other
ways in which it makes our relationships worse.  e
trick is to cultivate all the ways in which it helps
and to eliminate all the ways in which it hurts. As
Ickes (2003, chapter 12) has suggested, this involves
1980, 1981; Sillars, 1998; Stinson & Ickes, 1992;
omas & Fletcher, 1997;  omas, Fletcher, &
Lange, 1997);
perceivers use it to put the partner’s “bad
behavior” into perspective, to recognize the
partner’s mixed motives, to identify mutually
acceptable ways to resolve con icts with the
partner, and to depart from immediate self-interest
for the good of the partner and the relationship
(Bissonnette, Rusbult, & Kilpatrick, 1997); and
perceivers use it to e ectively align and
coordinate their own goals with the partner’s goals
(Berscheid, 1985).
Nonetheless, more of a good thing may not
always be a better thing: One study showed links
between greater empathic accuracy and bet-
ter marital functioning in the  rst year of mar-
riage (Kilpatrick, Bissonnette, & Rusbult, 2002).
However, notably, not only did empathic accuracy
decline after the  rst year of marriage, but the cor-
relations between empathic accuracy and marital
functioning also shrank after the  rst year. In their
work, Kilpatrick et al. computed a “baseline accu-
racy” score by rating the correspondence between a
thought reported by one member of the couple at a
speci c point with the other member of the couple’s
inference about a randomly selected other thought
from the  rst member.  us, if the  rst member of
the couple was frequently thinking, “I’m putting
more into this relationship than my partner,” and if
the other member of the couple often inferred that
“My partner thinks hes [shes] putting more into
this relationship than me,” then baseline accuracy
would be high.
After the  rst year of marriage, it seems that
Kilpatrick and colleagues’ couples may have relied
more on baseline assumptions than on making
the e ort to infer the unique content of a spe-
ci c thought that their partner had.  ese results
are consistent with the results of another study by
omas, Fletcher, and Lange (1997), who found
that length of marriage was negatively correlated
with empathic accuracy (although this correlation
was only signi cant for the men). In line with our
earlier discussion of how the stereotypic content of
thoughts may a ect empathic accuracy, over the
rst year of marriage, partners may have been hon-
ing their schema of what their partner tended to be
thinking about, and increasingly used that schema
as part of a “good enough” strategy to guess what
their partner was thinking about at any particular
point in time.
OUP UNCORRECTED PROOF – FIRSTPROOFS, Fri Jan 11 2013, NEWGEN
16_JeffryASimpson_Ch 16.indd 36616_JeffryASimpson_Ch 16.indd 366 1/11/2013 4:24:28 AM1/11/2013 4:24:28 AM
367, 
(e.g., more positive in valence, less transparent) has
not been explored. Although we might expect the
target’s personality to shape her thoughts and feel-
ings, it is also important to keep in mind that the
empathic accuracy methodology developed by Ickes
and colleagues (Ickes, 2001) encourages targets to
report discrete, individual thoughts and feelings.
e boundary line between one thought or feeling
and another may well be some threshold of change,
and thus we can expect some degree of indepen-
dence among thoughts and feelings—perhaps a
great deal of independence.
We have already seen that some thoughts or feel-
ings are easier to guess than others. However, the
reasons for this variation have not been explored.
Lewis and colleagues’ (2012) work suggests that
thoughts or feelings that represent a perspective that
is inconsistent with stereotypes (e.g., a new mother
who thinks about how she likes the fact that her baby
doesnt allow her any time for herself) are harder
to guess.  eir ndings also suggest that thought/
feeling stereotypicality—or the lack thereof—is
at least partially independent from a more global
assessment that the content of a particular thought
or feeling was hard to guess.
What else makes thoughts or feelings hard to
infer? Just as nonstereotypic thoughts are seen
as inconsistent with what members of a particu-
lar group are usually thinking, there may also be
thoughts that are hard for close others to guess
because they are inconsistent with what a particu-
lar target is usually thinking (e.g., a self-proclaimed
city slicker who  nds himself thinking about how
nice a vacation at a Wyoming ranch might be).
Some thoughts are di cult to guess because they
are about tangential topics that  it through a targets
head (e.g., a momentary cognitive hiccup to wonder
whether one remembered to feed the dog amidst an
otherwise focused exploration of life goals).
Other thoughts may be intentionally guarded
from perceivers, obscured by the fact that targets
outwardly say one thing while inwardly thinking
another.  is last category of di cult thoughts
seems especially relevant to the study of empathic
accuracy in close relationships because thoughts
may be obscured to protect the target, the perceiver,
or the relationship they share. For example, imagine
that a heterosexual couple encounters another man
in their social circle—one who is quite attractive.
e woman in the couple may do everything to
obscure her thoughts of how attractive he is in order
to avoid provoking her jealous and physically abu-
sive partner (e.g., see Schweinle et al., 2002). Or, if
developing a  nely tuned sense of discretion : the
ability to know when to get inside your partners
head and when to stay out of it.
Future Directions
We now consider the future of studying
empathic accuracy in close relationships. In our dis-
cussion above about what we already do know about
empathic accuracy, we have foreshadowed a num-
ber of directions for empathic accuracy research
that we think will be important, informative, and
challenging to study. We will suggest three broad
categories of future work: (1) continuing work to
explore and estimate di erent sources of variance in
empathic accuracy; (2) examining empathic accu-
racy in situations in which people are hiding their
actual thoughts and feelings; and (3) modifying
the empathic accuracy methodology for use in new
applications.
Looking for Accuracy in More of
the Right Places
As intuitive and tempting as it may be to pur-
sue them, questions about which stable individual
di erences in perceivers predict empathic accuracy
have provided a fairly compelling answer in the
aggregate:  is is not the most fertile ground for
studying empathic accuracy.  ere is little support
for a model that assumes an incremental ratcheting
up between speci c perceiver traits and empathic
accuracy scores. Examining more bluntly evident
empathic accuracy de cits in people with various
psychological and cognitive disabilities, such as
autism, may prove useful in understanding more
about these conditions, and may conceivably help
di erentiate between variants forms of these dis-
abilities or even distinct syndromes. However, when
studying empathic accuracy among typically func-
tioning individuals, it appears we need to think
beyond the main e ects of individual di erences.
In contrast, the contributions of target charac-
teristics have likely not yet been plumbed. So far,
it seems that they have mainly been studied as an
afterthought—a source of noise that, once con-
trolled for, will help highlight the e ects of perceiver
traits. We know little about stable target traits such
as emotional expressiveness, openness to experience,
or extraversion, and yet we have evidence that stable
amounts of variance in empathic accuracy are more
consistently associated with targets than with per-
ceivers (Ickes, Buysse, et al., 2000).
Furthermore, the assumption that all of a target’s
thoughts and feelings bear some signature quality
OUP UNCORRECTED PROOF – FIRSTPROOFS, Fri Jan 11 2013, NEWGEN
16_JeffryASimpson_Ch 16.indd 36716_JeffryASimpson_Ch 16.indd 367 1/11/2013 4:24:28 AM1/11/2013 4:24:28 AM
368     
to be known brings us to another future direc-
tion: Empathic accuracy researchers have not
fully exploited the fact that thoughts can serve
as a private refuge, especially in cases of con ict.
Many of the empathic accuracy studies reviewed in
this chapter were conducted within contexts that
would create relatively low baseline levels of con-
ict between targets and perceivers (e.g., get-to-
know-you conversations between pairs of college
students who share a college a liation; perceivers
watching videos of targets with whom they will
never interact face to face).
On the other hand, at least some empathic accu-
racy studies have deliberately created contexts in
which con ict (and the accompanying desire to keep
ones thoughts private) could emerge (see DePaulo
2002), by having couples discuss the attractiveness
of other people (e.g., Simpson et al., 1995), or by
instructing couples to talk about things they would
like to change in the relationship (e.g., Kilpatrick
et al., 2002). Empathic accuracy probably makes a
more straightforward and less complicated contri-
bution to interactions in which the participants are
not trying to hide or obscure their actual thoughts
and feelings, but are instead motivated to achieve a
clear and frank exchange of perspectives (e.g., the
participants asking for and telling each other their
actual, nondeceptive thoughts and feelings).
e fact that inferences about deliberately hidden
or obscured thoughts and feelings are more di cult
to make and can lead to greater problems suggests
another possible future research direction—and a
possible source of interventions.  e advice from
Jean Tracy that opens this chapter advises couples
to “let go of mind reading.” Perhaps a more help-
ful piece of advice would be to “take note of mind
reading,” particularly when one  nds oneself infer-
ring a thought that is di erent from or inconsistent
with what ones partner has outwardly said, or in
those probably rarer cases when one  nds out one’s
partner has incorrectly inferred ones own thought
or feeling. What led to mind reading rather than
direct communication in these situations? Is there
a particular topic, setting, or circumstance that reli-
ably triggers the use of mind reading rather than
straightforward, unedited communication?  e
answer to this question may be as, or perhaps even
more, important to the relationship than the degree
of empathic accuracy or inaccuracy.
Methodological Innovations
Another broad direction for future research is
continued tinkering, tweaking, and downright
she is paired with a more loving but highly sensi-
tive male partner, she may try to hide such thoughts
because she knows that if her partner knows what
she is currently thinking, the implicit comparisons
between him and the other man may be hurtful to
her partner.
us, future work may address how qualities of
speci c thoughts and feelings (such as how di cult
they are to guess or how stereotypical they are) a ect
empathic accuracy, but also how such qualities may
interact with other characteristics of the target, char-
acteristics of the perceiver, or characteristics of their
relationship. Multilevel modeling techniques will
aid such investigations by allowing us to decom-
pose empathic accuracy into thought-level sources
of variance (e.g., thought transparency), nested
within targets that contribute target-level sources of
variance (e.g., target attractiveness), studied across
perceivers who contribute often hypothesized yet
elusive sources of perceiver-level variance. We may
well discover that higher level factors interact with
lower level factors to determine empathic accuracy.
For example, Lewis et al. (2012) found college stu-
dent perceivers’ reliance on stereotypic content in
guessing the thoughts of new mother targets was
most e ective when the targets disclosed relatively
little about themselves and their experiences.
What other variables might change the e ective-
ness or likelihood of using di erent mind-reading
strategies? Ames (2004a, 2004b) has suggested that,
for other forms of interpersonal “knowing” (e.g.,
rating another persons traits or making attribu-
tions), people will be relatively more likely to proj-
ect their qualities onto the target if they perceive the
target as similar to themselves, and relatively more
likely to make stereotype-consistent judgments
if they perceive the target as dissimilar. Would
the same pattern hold if the criterion were guess-
ing another persons thoughts (rather than making
trait or motive attributions)? For example, would
new mother perceivers use some form of projection
more e ectively than stereotyping in guessing the
thoughts of other new mothers? Finally, researchers
should de nitely not limit themselves to stereotypi-
cality as the only dimension on which thoughts and
feelings can di er. Other qualities of thoughts and
feelings, such as how positive or negative they are,
may also interact with target or perceiver qualities to
predict empathic accuracy.
Reading Closed Minds
Pointing out that some thoughts may be harder
to guess because the target does not want them
OUP UNCORRECTED PROOF – FIRSTPROOFS, Fri Jan 11 2013, NEWGEN
16_JeffryASimpson_Ch 16.indd 36816_JeffryASimpson_Ch 16.indd 368 1/11/2013 4:24:28 AM1/11/2013 4:24:28 AM
369, 
honest the target was being, or how comfortable the
target felt.
Other researchers continue to examine discrete
thoughts but have explored new variations in cod-
ing accuracy. Hodges et al. (2010), for example,
asked targets to rate the accuracy of the perceivers
thought/feeling inferences, in addition to the more
standard procedure of having objective coders rate
empathic accuracy. It could be argued that targets
ratings are not only closer to the truth (after all,
they are the best source of what they were actually
thinking) but also can take researchers a step closer
to  nding out whether certain forms of perceiver
inaccuracy are more detrimental to an interaction
than others.
Conclusions
We hope that this chapter has convincingly
demonstrated that there are very few simple and
unquali ed statements that can be made about the
role of empathic accuracy in close relationships. We
began the chapter with a blanket admonition from
a couples’ counselor not to engage in mind reading,
but we have presented within the chapter a much
more complex picture, framed by a number of  nd-
ings that twist intuitive assumptions:
Humans are not very good at reading each
other’s minds, but we are substantially better than
chance would predict.
Although there appear to be stable individual
di erences in empathic accuracy ability,
demographic and personality variables do a poor
job predicting who will be good, at least beyond
coarse distinctions such as “not having autism” and
“being older than 5.
Untapped variance in empathic accuracy
may be explained instead by di erences among
the people whose minds we are trying to read (and
even more speci cally, by which thoughts and
feelings they are having).
Although we may think that we want to know
what those around us are thinking (a recent poll
showed that more than one fourth of Americans
listed mind reading as their top choice for a “super
power”; Marist Poll, 2011), research  ndings
clearly show that people are occasionally motivated
to avoid such accuracy.
Motivated inaccuracy , when it occurs, is often
adaptive; it can protect the perceivers self-esteem
and esteem for the interaction partner, and it can
help to preserve the partners’ relationship in the
face of a temporary threat. On the other hand,
messing with current empathic accuracy methods.
A number of variations seem promising. Several
researchers have experimented with techniques for
specifying the “stop points” at which targets report
their thoughts. For example, Verhofstadt, Davis,
and Ickes (2011) videotaped couples talking about
personal problems, and then, when playing the
tapes back for targets to report their thoughts, the
researchers stopped the tape at arbitrary equidistant
intervals (every 30 to 60 seconds, depending on
how long the video was). Although this technique
may result in targets either reporting that they cant
remember thinking anything at that point, or pos-
sibly making something up, it probably produces
more thoughts with a greater range of variation—
and a selection less a ected by any target bias about
what constitutes a “good” thought.
Tipsord (2009), in contrast, instructed perceivers
to designate the stop points, asking them to stop the
video at any point they noticed thinking or won-
dering about what the target was thinking, while
also asking the targets to designate stop points and
report thoughts in the traditional fashion. Tipsord
then used the number of perceiver-designated stop
points as a measure of attention to the target, along
with coding the accuracy of perceiver inferences at
any stop points that happened to coincide in time
with targets’ stop points. More recently, Howington
(2011) has experimented with having targets report
when they are having thoughts during the initial
making of the videotape, by pressing a button that
lights up an LED light that is visible to anyone
watching the videotape, but is not visible to inter-
actants during the making of the videotape. As in
the Verhofstadt et al. method, this technique results
in targets sometimes reporting that they cannot
remember what they were thinking or feeling ini-
tially, but it probably also triggers memories of a few
thoughts and feelings that would otherwise be lost.
Other researchers have chosen to look at accu-
racy for something other than temporally dis-
crete thoughts and feelings. For example, Zaki
et al. (2008), using a technique  rst developed by
Levenson and Ruef (1992), had targets continu-
ously rate how positive or negative they remembered
feeling as they watched videotapes of themselves
discussing personal events. Perceivers then watched
the same videotapes and continuously rated how
positive or negative they thought the targets were
feeling. Accuracy in this case was re ected in how
closely the two sets of ratings were correlated.  is
methodology seems like it could also be adapted
for use with other continuous ratings, such as how
OUP UNCORRECTED PROOF – FIRSTPROOFS, Fri Jan 11 2013, NEWGEN
16_JeffryASimpson_Ch 16.indd 36916_JeffryASimpson_Ch 16.indd 369 1/11/2013 4:24:28 AM1/11/2013 4:24:28 AM
370     
5 . As we have noted above, perceiver variance tends to be
quite range restricted in college-student samples. It may plausible
to assume that target variance is simply less range restricted in
these samples.
6 . Marangoni et al. (1995) were the rst to compute and
control for the e ect of an inferential di culty index, thereby
setting the precedent for its use in many subsequent studies
(e.g., Flury, Ickes, & Schweinle, 2008; Hodges, Kiel, Kramer,
Veach, & Villanueva, 2010; Simpson, Ickes, & Blackstone, 1995;
Simpson, Kim, Fillo, Ickes, Rholes, Oriña, & Winterheld, 2011;
Simpson, Oriña, & Ickes, 2003).
7 . is study was the  rst to use the standard interview
paradigm .
References
Ahnert , R. , Klein , K. , Veach , D. , & Hodges , S. ( 2001 , February).
Understanding empathic accuracy . Poster presented at the
meeting of the Society of Personality and Social Psychology,
San Antonio, TX .
Aldous , J. ( 1977 ). Family interaction patterns. Annual Review of
Sociology , 3 , 105–135 .
Ames , D. R. ( 2004a ). Inside the mind readers tool kit: Projection
and stereotyping in mental state inference. Journal of
Personality and Social Psychology, 87 , 340–353 .
Ames , D. R. ( 2004b ). Strategies for social inference: A similarity
contingency model of projection and stereotyping in attri-
bute prevalence estimates . Journal of Personality and Social
Psychology , 87 , 573–585 .
Baron-Cohen , S. ( 1995 ). Mindblindness: An essay on autism and
theory of mind. Cambridge, MA : MIT Press .
Batson , C. D. ( 2009 ). ese things called empathy: Eight related
but distinct phenomena. In J. Decety & W. Ickes (Eds.), e
social neuroscience of empathy (pp. 3–15 ). Cambridge, MA :
MIT Press .
Becker , H. ( 1931 ). Some forms of sympathy: A phenomenologi-
cal analysis . Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology , 26 ,
58–68 .
Becker , H. ( 1956 ). Empathy, sympathy, and Scheler . International
Journal of Sociometry and Sociatry , 1 , 1–22 .
Berscheid , E. ( 1985 ). Compatibility, interdependence, and emo-
tion. In W. Ickes (Eds.), Compatible and incompatible rela-
tionships (pp. 143–161 ). New York : Springer-Verlag .
Bissonnette , V. , Rusbult , C. , & Kilpatrick , S. D. ( 1997 ). Empathic
accuracy and marital con ict resolution (pp. 251–281 ). In
Ickes , W. (Ed.), Empathic accuracy . New York : Guilford Press .
Carter , J. D. , & Hall , J. A. ( 2008 ). Individual di erences in the
accuracy of detecting social covariations: Ecological sensitiv-
ity . Journal of Research in Personality, 42 , 439–455 .
Clements , K. , Holtzworth- Munroe , A. , Schweinle , W. , & Ickes ,
W. ( 2007 ). Empathic accuracy of intimate partners in vio-
lent versus nonviolent relationships . Personal Relationships ,
14 , 369–388 .
Costanzo , M. , & Archer , D. ( 1989 ). Interpreting the expres-
sive behavior of others:  e Interpersonal Perception Task .
Journal of Nonverbal Behavior, 13 , 225–245 .
Davis , M. ( 1980 ). A multidimensional approach to individual
di erences in empathy . Catalog of Selected Documents in
Psychology, 10 , 85 .
Davis , M. H. ( 1983 ). Measuring individual di erences in empa-
thy: Evidence for a multi-dimensional approach . Journal of
Personality and Social Psychology , 44 , 113–126 .
Demurie , E. , DeCorel , M. , & Roeyers , H. ( 2011 ). Empathic
accuracy in adolescents with autism spectrum disorders and
chronic motivated inaccuracy can be a maladaptive
way to avoid dealing with relationship problems
that, if left unaddressed, might only get worse
over time. From these considerations, it follows
that accurate knowledge of anothers thoughts and
feelings—including those of a close other—may be
linked with more positive relationship outcomes
in some circumstances but may not matter that
much in others, and may even lead to detrimental
outcomes in yet others.
In summary, simple questions about empathic
accuracy have led to answers conditioned on vari-
ables that were not initially anticipated to play a role
in explaining results, and on new methodological
techniques have been created to address emerging
and unanticipated research questions.  ese devel-
opments fuel a vibrant area of research that we pre-
dict will continue to seem paradoxical: repeatedly
frustrating and unpredictable on the one hand, but
endlessly fascinating and fruitful on the other.
Notes
1 . Since the introduction of the empathic accuracy con-
struct and its associated measurement procedure by Ickes and
his colleagues in 1990, the term “empathic accuracy” has been
widely accepted and also broadened to include the constructs
measured by a number of variant procedures that have been
developed by other researchers, some of which we will high-
light later in this chapter. Although the original measurement
technique is still the best known and most widely applied, we
will occasionally refer to one or another of the alternative tech-
niques that are also used to measure the more general construct
of empathic accuracy.
2 . Note again that although the dyadic interaction para-
digm, the standard stimulus paradigm, and the standard inter-
view technique were initially developed for the study of empathic
accuracy as originally de ned and operationalized by Ickes and
his colleagues, the same three paradigms can also be used in
studies of empathic accuracy using the alternative operation-
alizations that other researchers have more recently developed.
Furthermore, other researchers have implemented variants of
these paradigms, for example, letting participants in the dyadic
interaction paradigm know at the start that their “get to know
you” conversation will be  lmed.
3 . is is the traditional scoring, developed by Ickes et al.
(1990), which most—but not all—researchers use. It has the
obvious advantage of yielding a percent-correct measure of
empathic accuracy, which is easily compared across all of the
studies that use this same measurement convention.
4 . In some designs, both between-dyad and within-dyad
comparisons can be made. For example, a design might con-
trast three dyad types: (1) neither partner is egocentric; (2) one
partner is egocentric, but the other is not; and (3) both partners
are egocentric. In this (hypothetical study) design, we could test
both the between-dyad di erences in empathic accuracy across
conditions (1), (2), and (3), and the within-dyad di erence in
empathic accuracy between the egocentric and nonegocentric
partners in condition (2).
OUP UNCORRECTED PROOF – FIRSTPROOFS, Fri Jan 11 2013, NEWGEN
16_JeffryASimpson_Ch 16.indd 37016_JeffryASimpson_Ch 16.indd 370 1/11/2013 4:24:28 AM1/11/2013 4:24:28 AM
371, 
Hazan , C. , & Shaver , P. R. ( 1994 ). Attachment as an organi-
zational framework for research on close relationships .
Psychological Inquiry , 5 , 1–22 .
Helgeson , V. S. ( 1994 ). Relation of agency and communion to
wellbeing: Evidence and potential explanations . Psychological
Bulletin, 116 , 412–428 .
Hodges , S. D. , & Biswas-Diener , R. ( 2007 ). Balancing the
empathy expense account: Strategies for regulating empathic
response. In T. F. D. Farrow & P. W. R. Woodru (Eds.),
Empathy in mental illness and health (pp. 389–407 ).
Cambridge, UK : Cambridge University Press .
Hodges , S. D. , Kiel , K. J. , Kramer , A. D. I. , Veach , D. , &
Villanueva , B. R. ( 2010 ). Giving birth to empathy: e
e ects of similar experience on empathic accuracy, empathic
concern, and perceived empathy . Personality and Social
Psychology Bulletin, 36 , 398–409 .
Hodges , S. D. , & Klein , K. J. K. ( 2000 , February). Getting what
you pay for: Empathic accuracy and empathic concern . Poster
presented at the meeting of the Society of Personality and
Social Psychology, Nashville, TN .
Hodges , S. D. , Laurent , S. M. , & Lewis , K. L. ( 2011 ). Specially
motivated, feminine, or just female: Do women have an
empathic accuracy advantage? In J. L. Smith , W. Ickes , J.
Hall , & S. D. Hodges (Eds.), Managing interpersonal sensi-
tivity: Knowing when—and when not—to understand others
(pp. 59–73 ). New York : Nova Science Publishers .
Howington , D. E. ( 2011 ). [Group memberships e ects on
empathic accuracy]. Unpublished raw data, University of
Oregon.
Ickes , W. ( 1993 ). Empathic accuracy . Journal of Personality, 61 ,
587–610 .
Ickes , W. (Ed.) ( 1997 ). Empathic accuracy . New York : Guilford
Press .
Ickes , W. ( 2001 ). Measuring empathic accuracy. In J. A. Hall &
F. J. Bernieri (Eds.), Interpersonal sensitivity:  eory and mea-
surement (pp. 219–241 ). Mahwah, NJ : Erlbaum .
Ickes , W. ( 2003 ). Everyday mind reading: Understanding what
other people think and feel. Amherst, NY : Prometheus Books .
Ickes , W. ( 2009 ). Empathic accuracy: Its links to clinical, cogni-
tive, developmental, social, and physiological psychology. In
J. Decety & W. Ickes (Eds.), e social neuroscience of empathy
(pp. 57–70 ). Cambridge, MA : MIT Press .
Ickes , W. ( 2011 ). Everyday mind reading is driven by motives
and goals. Psychological Inquiry , 22 , 200–206.
Ickes , W. , Buysse , A. , Pham , H. , Rivers , K. , Erickson , J. R. ,
Hancock , M. , Kelleher , J. , & Gesn , P. R. ( 2000 ). On the
di culty of distinguishing “good” and “poor” perceivers: A
social relations analysis of empathic accuracy data . Personal
Relationships, 7 , 219–234 .
Ickes , W. , Gesn , P. R. , & Graham , T. ( 2000 ). Gender di er-
ences in empathic accuracy: Di erential ability of di erential
motivation? Personal Relationships, 7 , 95–10 9.
Ickes , W. , Hutchison , J. , & Mashek , D. ( 2004 ). Closeness as
intersubjectivity: Social absorption and social individuation.
In D. Mashek & A. Aron (Eds.), e handbook of closeness
and intimacy
(pp. 357–373 ). Mahwah, NJ : Erlbaum .
Ickes , W. , & Simpson , J. ( 1997 ). Managing empathic accuracy
in close relationships. In W. Ickes (Ed.), Empathic accuracy
(pp. 218–250 ). New York : Guilford Press .
Ickes , W. , & Simpson , J. ( 2001 ). Motivational aspects of
empathic accuracy. In G. J. O. Fletcher & M. S. Clark (Eds.),
Interpersonal processes: Blackwell handbook in social psychology
(pp. 229–249 ). Oxford, UK : Blackwell .
adolescents with attention-de cit/hyperactivity disorder .
Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders, 5 , 126–134 .
DePaulo , B. M. ( 2002 ). e many faces of lies. In A. G. Miller
(Ed.), e social psychology of good and evil (pp. 303–326 ).
New York : Guilford Press .
Dugosh , J. W. ( 1998 ). Adult attachment style in uences on the
empathic accuracy of female dating partners . Unpublished
master’s thesis, University of Texas at Arlington .
Dugosh , J. W. ( 2001 ). E ects of relationship threat and ambiguity
on empathic accuracy in dating couples . Unpublished doctoral
thesis, University of Texas at Arlington .
Flury , J. , Ickes , W. , & Schweinle , W. ( 2008 ). e borderline
empathy e ect: Do high BPD individuals have greater
empathic ability? Or are they just more di cult to read”?
Journal of Research in Personality , 42 , 312–332 .
Gesn , P. R. ( 1995 ). Shared knowledge between same-sex friends:
Measurement and validation . Unpublished master’s thesis,
University of Texas at Arlington .
Gesn , P. R. & Ickes , W. ( 1999 ). e development of mean-
ing contexts for empathic accuracy: Channel and sequence
e ects . Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 77 ,
746–761 .
Gleason , K. A. , Jensen- Campbell , L. A. , & Ickes , W. ( 2009 ). e
role of empathic accuracy in adolescents’ peer relations and
adjustment . Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 35 ,
997–101 1.
G o man , E. ( 1974 ). Frame analysis: An essay on the organization
of experience . New York : Harper and Row .
Gopnik , A. , & Wellman , H. M. ( 1994 ). e “theory” theory. In
L. A. Hirsch eld & S. A. Gelman (Eds.), Mapping the mind:
Domain speci city in cognition and culture (pp. 257–294 ).
Cambridge, UK : Cambridge University Press .
Gottman , J. M., & Levenson, R. W. (1992). Marital pro-
cesses predictive of later dissolution: Behavior, physiology,
and health. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 63 ,
221–233.
Graham , T. ( 1994 ). Gender, relationship, and target di erences in
empathic accuracy . Unpublished master’s thesis, University of
Texas at Arlington .
Graham , T. , & Ickes , W. ( 1997 ). When womens intuition isnt
greater than mens. In W. Ickes (Ed.), Empathic accuracy
(pp. 117–143 ). New York : Guilford .
Hall , J. A. ( 1978 ). Gender e ects in decoding nonverbal cues .
Psychological Bulletin, 85 , 845–857 .
Hall , J. A. ( 1984 ). Nonverbal sex di erences: Communication
accuracy and expressive style . Baltimore : e Johns Hopkins
University Press .
Hall , J. A. ( 2001 ). e PONS test and the psychometric approach
to measuring interpersonal sensitivity. In J. A. Hall , & F. J.
Bernieri (Eds.), Interpersonal sensitivity:  eory and measure-
ment. (pp. 143–160 ). Mahwah, NJ : Erlbaum .
Hall , J. A. (2011). Manipulated motivation and interpersonal
and interpersonal accuracy. In J. L. Smith, W. Ickes, J. A.
Hall, and S. D. Hodges (Eds.), Managing interpersonal sen-
sitivity: Knowing when and when not to understand others
(pp. 1–20). Hauppauge, NY: Nova Science Publishers.
Hall , J. A. , & Schmid Mast , M. ( 2008 ). Are women always
more interpersonally sensitive than men? Impact of content
domain and motivation . Personality and Social Psychology
Bulletin , 34 , 144–155 .
Hazan , C. , & Shaver , P. R. ( 1987 ). Romantic love conceptual-
ized as an attachment process . Journal of Personality and
Social Psychology, 52 , 511–524 .
OUP UNCORRECTED PROOF – FIRSTPROOFS, Fri Jan 11 2013, NEWGEN
16_JeffryASimpson_Ch 16.indd 37116_JeffryASimpson_Ch 16.indd 371 1/11/2013 4:24:28 AM1/11/2013 4:24:28 AM
372     
K. Markman , W. Klein , & J. Suhr (Eds.), e handbook of
imagination and mental simulation (pp. 281–294 ). New York :
Psychology Press .
Neel , R. O. , & Hodges , S. D. ( 2008 ). [Empathic accuracy and
verbal intelligence]. Unpublished raw data.
Noller , P. ( 1980 ). Misunderstandings in marital communication:
A study of couples’ nonverbal communication . Journal of
Personality and Social Psychology , 39 , 1135–1148 .
Noller , P. ( 1981 ). Gender and marital adjustment level di erences
in decoding messages from spouses and strangers . Journal of
Personality and Social Psychology , 41 , 272–278 .
Nowicki , S. , & Duke , M. P. ( 1994 ). Individual di erences in the
nonverbal communication of a ect:  e Diagnostic Analysis
of Nonverbal Accuracy Scale . Journal of Nonverbal Behavior ,
18 , 9–35 .
Perner , J. , & Wimmer , H. ( 1985 ). “John thinks that Mary
thinks that . . . ” Attribution of second-order beliefs by
5- to 10-year-old children . Journal of Experimental Child
Psychology, 39 , 437–471 .
Pickett , C. L. , Gardner , W. L. , & Knowles , M. ( 2004 ). Getting
a cue:  e need to belong and enhanced sensitivity to
social cues . Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin , 30 ,
1 095–110 7.
Ponnet , K. , Buysse , A. , Roeyers , H. , & De Clercq , A. ( 2008 ).
Mind reading in young adults with ASD: Does structure
matter? Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 38 ,
905–918 .
Ponnet , K. S. , Roeyers , H. , Buysse , A. , De Clercq , A. , & Van Der
Heyden , E. ( 2004 ). Advanced mind reading in adults with
Asperger syndrome . Autism , 8 , 249–266 .
Rausch , H. L. , Barry , W. A. , Hertel , R. K. , & Swain , M. A.
( 1974 ). Communication con ict and marriage . San Francisco :
Jossey-Bass .
Rholes , W. S. , Simpson , J. A. , Tran , S. , Martin , A. M. , &
Friedman , M. ( 2007 ). Attachment and information seeking
in romantic relationships . Personality and Social Psychology
Bulletin , 33 , 422–438 .
Robillard , L. , & Noller, P. (2011). Rejection sensitivity, violence,
and decoding de cits in married men. In J. L. Smith, W.
Ickes, J. A. Hall, & S. D. Hodges (Eds.), Managing inter-
personal sensitivity. Knowing when and when not to under-
stand others (pp. 143–167). Hauppauge, NY: Nova Science
Publishers.
Rogers , C. R. ( 1957 ). e necessary and su cient conditions
of therapeutic personality change . Journal of Consulting
Psychology, 21 , 95–103 .
Rusbult , C. E. , Finkel , E. J. , & Kumashiro , M. ( 2009 ).
e Michelangelo phenomenon . Current Directions in
Psychological Science , 18 , 305–309 .
Scheler , Max ( 1931 ).
e nature of sympathy . Translated by Peter
Heath with an introduction by Werner Stark . London :
Routledge & Kegan Paul , 1965. Reprint, Hamden, CT:
Archon Books, 1970.
Schweinle , W. , & Ickes , W. ( 2007 ). e role of mens critical/
rejecting overattribution bias, a ect, and attentional disen-
gagement in marital aggression . Journal of Social and Clinical
Psychology, 26 , 173–198 .
Schweinle , W. E. , Ickes , W. , & Bernstein , I. H. ( 2002 ). Empathic
inaccuracy in husband to wife aggression:  e overattribu-
tion bias . Personal Relationships , 9 , 141–159 .
Sillars , A. L. ( 1985 ). Interpersonal perception in relationships.
In W. Ickes (Ed.), Compatible and incompatible relationships
(pp. 277–305 ). New York : Springer-Verlag .
Ickes , W. , Stinson , L. , Bissonnette , V. , & Garcia , S. ( 1990 ).
Naturalistic social cognition: Empathic accuracy in
mixed-sex dyads . Journal of Personality and Social Psychology,
59 , 730–742 .
Kelleher , J. , Ickes , W. , & Dugosh , J. ( 2003 ). Hidden and revealed
agendas: E ects of frames on empathic accuracy. Unpublished
manuscript.
Kenny , D. A. , ( 1994 ). Interpersonal perception: A social relations
analysis. New York : Guilford Press .
Kilpatrick , S. D. , Bissonnette , V. L. , & Rusbult , C. E. ( 2002 ).
Empathic accuracy and accommodative behavior among
newly married couples . Personal Relationships, 9 , 369–393 .
Klein , K. J. K. , & Hodges , S. D. ( 2001 ). Gender di erences,
motivation and empathic accuracy: When it pays to
understand . Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 27 ,
720–730 .
Kobak , R. R. , & Sceery , A. ( 1988 ). Attachment in late adoles-
cence: Working models, a ect regulation, and representa-
tions of self and others . Child Development , 59 , 135–146 .
Kursh , C. O. ( 1971 ). e bene ts of poor communication .
Psychoanalytic Review , 58 , 189–208 .
Levenson , R. W. , & Ruef , A. M. ( 1992 ). Empathy: A physiologi-
cal substrate . Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 63 ,
234–246 .
Levinger , G. , & Breedlove , J. ( 1966 ). Interpersonal attraction
and agreement . Journal of Personality and Social Psychology ,
3 , 367–372 .
Lewis , K. L. ( 2008 ). Empathic accuracy and nonverbal decoding:
Related or distinct constructs? Unpublished master’s thesis,
University of Oregon .
Lewis , K. L. , Hodges , S. D. , Laurent , S. M. , Srivastava , S. , &
Biancarosa , G. (2012). Reading between the minds: e use
of stereotypes in empathic accuracy. Psychological Science, 23,
1040–1046.
Locher , B. ( 2009 ). Empathic accuracy and the use of stereotypes
in inferring the thoughts and feelings of others. Unpublished
Honors College thesis, University of Oregon .
Marangoni , C. , Garcia , S. , Ickes , W. , & Teng , G. ( 1995 ).
Empathic accuracy in a clinically relevant setting . Journal of
Personality and Social Psychology, 68 , 854–869 .
Marist Poll . ( 2011 , February 8). Holy super powers, Batman! Mind
reading and time travel top list. Retrieved June 16, 2011, from
http://maristpoll.marist.edu/28-holy-super-powers-batman-
mind-reading-and-time-travel-top-list/.
McClure , E. B. ( 2000 ). A meta-analytic review of sex di er-
ences in facial expression processing and their development
in infants, children, and adolescents . Psychological Bulletin,
125 , 424–453 .
Mehrabian , A. , & Epstein , N. ( 1972 ). A measure of emotional
empathy . Journal of Personality, 40 , 525–543 .
Mikulincer , M. , & Shaver , P. R. ( 2003 ). e attachment behav-
ioral system in adulthood: Activation, psychodynamics, and
interpersonal processes. In M. P. Zanna (Ed.), Advances in
experimental social psychology (Vol. 35, pp. 53–15 2). San
Diego, CA : Elsevier Academic Press .
Murray , S. L. , & Holmes , J. G. ( 1997 ). A leap of faith? Positive
illusions in romantic relationships . Personality and Social
Psychology Bulletin, 23 , 586–604 .
Myers , J. E. ( 2009 ). Predicting rapport in dyads: Mattering over
mind reading. Unpublished master’s thesis, University of
Oregon .
Myers , M. W. , & Hodges , S. D. ( 2009 ). Making it up and mak-
ing do: Simulation, imagination and empathic accuracy. In
OUP UNCORRECTED PROOF – FIRSTPROOFS, Fri Jan 11 2013, NEWGEN
16_JeffryASimpson_Ch 16.indd 37216_JeffryASimpson_Ch 16.indd 372 1/11/2013 4:24:28 AM1/11/2013 4:24:28 AM
373, 
omas , G. , & Fletcher, G. J. O. (1997). Empathic accuracy
in close relationships. In W. Ickes (Ed.), Empathic accuracy
(pp. 194–217). New York, NY: Guilford Press.
omas , G. , & Fletcher , G. J. O. ( 2003 ). Mind reading accuracy
in intimate relationships: Assessing the roles of the relation-
ship, the target, and the judge . Journal of Personality and
Social Psychology , 85 , 1079–1094 .
omas , G. , Fletcher , G. J. O. , & Lange , C. ( 1997 ). On-line
empathic accuracy in marital interaction . Journal of
Personality and Social Psychology, 72 , 839–850 .
omas , G. , & Maio , G. R. ( 2008 ). Man, I feel like a woman:
When and how gender-role motivation helps mind reading .
Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 95 , 1165–1179 .
Tipsord , J. M. ( 2009 ). e e ects of mindfulness training and
individual di erences in mindfulness on social perception and
empathy . Unpublished doctoral dissertation, University of
Oregon .
Tracy , J. ( 2009 ). Marriage, ghts, and mind reading: 3 Magic
solutions. Originally published on SearchWarp.com,
February 23, 2009.
Verhofstadt , L. L. , Ickes , W. , & Buysse , A. ( 2010 ). Empathic
accuracy and support provision in marriage. In K. Sullivan
and J. Davila (Eds.), Support processes in intimate relationships
(pp. 71–88 ). New York : Oxford University Press .
Verhofstadt , L. , Davis, M., & Ickes, W. (2011). Motivation,
empathic accuracy, and spousal support. It’s complicated! In
J. L. Smith, W. Ickes, J. A. Hall, and S. D. Hodges (Eds.),
Managing interpersonal sensitivity. Knowing when and when
not to understand others (pp. 169–192). Hauppauge, NY:
Nova Science Publishers.
Vervoort , T. , Crombez , G. , Buysse , A. , Goubert , L. , De Backer ,
T. , & Ickes , W. ( 2007 ). e accuracy of parents for the
thoughts and feelings of their adolescent su ering from
chronic fatigue: A preliminary study of empathy . Journal of
Pediatric Psychology, 32 , 494–499 .
Watzlawick , P. , Weakland , J. , & Fisch , R. ( 1974 ). Principles
of problem formation and problem resolution . New York :
Norton .
Wegner , D. M. , Giuliano , T. , & Hertel , P. T. ( 1985 ). Cognitive
interdependence in close relationships. In W. Ickes (Ed.),
Compatible and incompatible relationships (pp. 253–276 ).
New York : Springer-Verlag .
Zaki , J. , Bolger , N. , & Ochsner , K. ( 2008 ). It takes two: e
interpersonal nature of empathic accuracy . Psychological
Science , 19 , 399–404 .
Sillars , A. L. (Mis)understanding. ( 1998 ). In B. H. Spitzberg &
W. R. Cupach (Eds.), e dark side of close relationships
(pp. 73–102 ). Mahwah, NJ : Erlbaum .
Sillars , A. ( 2011 ). Motivated misunderstanding in family con-
ict discussions. In J. L. Smith , W. Ickes , J. Hall , & S. D.
Hodges (Eds.), Managing interpersonal sensitivity: Knowing
when—and when not—to understand others (pp. 193–213 ).
New York : Nova Science .
Simpson , J. A. (1990). In uence of attachment styles on roman-
tic relationships. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology ,
59 , 971–980.
Simpson , J. , Ickes , W. , & Blackstone , T. ( 1995 ). When the
head protects the heart: Empathic accuracy in dating rela-
tionships . Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 69 ,
629–641 .
Simpson , J. A. , Ickes , W. , & Grich , J. ( 1999 ). When accu-
racy hurts: Reactions of anxious-uncertain individuals to a
relationship-threatening situation . Journal of Personality and
Social Psychology , 76 , 754–769 .
Simpson , J. A., Ickes, W., & Oriña , M. M. (2001). Empathic
accuracy and preemptive relationship maintenance. In
J. Harvey & A. Werzel (Eds.), Close romantic relationships.
Maintenance and enhancement (pp. 27–46). Mahwah, NJ:
Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
Simpson , J. A. , Kim , J. S. , Fillo , J. , Ickes , W. , Rholes , S. , Oriña ,
M. M. , & Winterheld , H. A. ( 2011 ). Attachment and the
management of empathic accuracy in relationship threaten-
ing situations . Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin , 37 ,
242–254 .
Simpson , J. A. , Oriña , M. M. , & Ickes , W. ( 2003 ). When accu-
racy hurts, and when it helps: A test of the empathic accu-
racy model in marital interactions . Journal of Personality and
Social Psychology, 85 , 881–893 .
Spence , J. T. , & Helmreich , R. L. ( 1978 ). Masculinity and femi-
ninity:  eir psychological dimensions, correlates, and anteced-
ents. Austin : University of Texas Press .
Stinson , L. , & Ickes , W. ( 1992 ). Empathic accuracy in the
interactions of male friends versus male strangers . Journal of
Personality and Social Psychology, 62 , 787–797 .
Stone , V. E. ( 2006 ). eory of mind and the evolution of social
intelligence. In J. T. Cacioppo , P. S. Visser , & C. L. Pickett
(Eds.), Social neuroscience: People thinking about thinking
people (pp. 103–129 ). Cambridge, MA : MIT Press .
Stone , V. E. , & Gerans , P. ( 2006 ). What’s domain-speci c about
theory of mind? Social Neuroscience , 1 (3–4), 309–319 .
OUP UNCORRECTED PROOF – FIRSTPROOFS, Fri Jan 11 2013, NEWGEN
16_JeffryASimpson_Ch 16.indd 37316_JeffryASimpson_Ch 16.indd 373 1/11/2013 4:24:28 AM1/11/2013 4:24:28 AM
... Research demonstrates a positive relation between a partner's empathic accuracy and their degree of relationship satisfaction [22,23], when it is present in mundane and nonconflictual settings. Various studies have also found that people with higher levels of empathy are better in detecting their partners' needs and providing them with higher-quality advice and instrumental support [24][25][26]. On the other hand, subjective perceptions of empathy may be more important for relationship satisfaction than empathic accuracy [27], i.e., the objective ability to determine one's partners views. ...
... Empathic accuracy implies accurate perception of people's mental states, including thoughts and feelings [24] people that are more proficient in mentalizing may also be more skillful in understanding their partner's needs and preferences. Such an awareness may in turn increase the likelihood of fulfilling such needs and make them choose and adjust their behavior more consciously. ...
Article
Full-text available
Chapman's Love Languages hypothesis claims that (1) people vary in the ways they prefer to receive and express affection and (2) romantic partners who communicate their feelings congruent with their partner's preferences experience greater relationship quality. The author proposes five distinct preferences and tendencies for expressing love, including: Acts of Service, Physical Touch, Words of Affirmation, Quality Time and Gifts. In the present study partners (N = 100 heterosexual couples) completed measures assessing their preferences and behavioral tendencies for a) expressions of love and b) reception of signs of affection, for each of the five proposed "love languages". Relationship satisfaction, sexual satisfaction and empathy were also assessed. The degree of the within-couple mismatch was calculated separately for each individual based on the discrepancies between the person's felt (preferred) and their partner's expressed love language. The joint mismatch indicator was a sum of discrepancies across the five love languages. Matching on love languages was associated with both relationship and sexual satisfaction. In particular, people who expressed their affection in the way their partners preferred to receive it, experienced greater satisfaction with their relationships and were more sexually satisfied compared to those who met their partner's needs to lesser extent. Empathy was expected to be a critical factor for better understanding of and responding to the partner's needs. Results provided some support for this hypothesis among male but not female participants.
... Por exemplo, a clareza emocional de um falante prediz diretamente a extensão da revelação emocional e subsequente bem-estar em adultos (Saxena & Mehrotra, 2010) e subsequente qualidade relacional em casais (Cordova, Gee, e Warren, 2005;Wachs & Cordova, 2007), enquanto a consciência de um ouvinte do outro prediz a responsividade bem-sucedida e bem-estar relacional nas díades (Finkenauer, Wijngaards-de Meij, Reis, e Rusbult, 2010;Empena et al., 2003). A consciência do outro se encaixa nos construtos de precisão empática e de tomada de perspectiva, que são vistos como fundamentais para a promoção de comportamento pró-social em geral (Batson, Lishner, & Stocks, 2015) e qualidade relacional, em particular, (Cramer & Jowett, 2010;Davis & Oathout, 1987;Ickes & Hodges, 2013;Long & Andrews, 1990;Schröder-Abe & Schütz, 2011). Assim, clinicamente, esses achados sugerem que é importante avaliar o grau em que os clientes têm consciência de seus sentimentos e necessidades, e se são capazes de assumir a perspectiva do outro e sintonizar empaticamente com os sentimentos e necessidades do outro. ...
Article
Full-text available
Resumo: O uso de comportamentos-alvos idiograficamente definidos tem dificultado a participação da Psicoterapia Analítica Funcional (FAP) no desenvolvimento de um modelo reticulado de tratamento. Uma maneira de resolver esta limitação é oferecer um conjunto padrão de alvos clínicos previsíveis para a FAP. O presente estudo detalha um método de identificação de alvos de tratamento padronizados na FAP usando o modelo de consciência, coragem e amor (ACL). A aplicabilidade do modelo foi avaliada por meio da verificação do grau de correspondência entre alvos clínicos anteriormente identificados em pesquisa FAP e as categorias especificas propostas no modelo ACL. Há uma correspondência de 83,67% entre os alvos idiográficos anteriores e os alvos padronizados atuais. Discutimos como o modelo ACL pode ser clinicamente útil e incentivamos o desenvolvimento de um tratamento mais integrativo para a FAP. Palavras-chave: psicoterapia, FAP, psicoterapia analítica funcional, ACL, ciência do relacio-namento, conceituação de caso, ciência comportamental contextual.
... Por exemplo, a clareza emocional de um falante prediz diretamente a extensão da revelação emocional e subsequente bem-estar em adultos (Saxena & Mehrotra, 2010) e subsequente qualidade relacional em casais (Cordova, Gee, e Warren, 2005;Wachs & Cordova, 2007), enquanto a consciência de um ouvinte do outro prediz a responsividade bem-sucedida e bem-estar relacional nas díades (Finkenauer, Wijngaards-de Meij, Reis, e Rusbult, 2010;Empena et al., 2003). A consciência do outro se encaixa nos construtos de precisão empática e de tomada de perspectiva, que são vistos como fundamentais para a promoção de comportamento pró-social em geral (Batson, Lishner, & Stocks, 2015) e qualidade relacional, em particular, (Cramer & Jowett, 2010;Davis & Oathout, 1987;Ickes & Hodges, 2013;Long & Andrews, 1990;Schröder-Abe & Schütz, 2011). Assim, clinicamente, esses achados sugerem que é importante avaliar o grau em que os clientes têm consciência de seus sentimentos e necessidades, e se são capazes de assumir a perspectiva do outro e sintonizar empaticamente com os sentimentos e necessidades do outro. ...
Article
O uso de comportamentos-alvos idiograficamente definidos tem dificultado a participação da Psicoterapia Analítica Funcional (FAP) no desenvolvimento de um modelo reticulado de tratamento. Uma maneira de resolver esta limitação é oferecer um conjunto padrão de alvos clínicos previsíveis para a FAP. O presente estudo detalha um método de identificação de alvos de tratamento padronizados na FAP usando o modelo de consciência, coragem e amor (ACL). A aplicabilidade do modelo foi avaliada por meio da verificação do grau de correspondência entre alvos clínicos anteriormente identificados em pesquisa FAP e as categorias especificas propostas no modelo ACL. Há uma correspondência de 83,67% entre os alvos idiográficos anteriores e os alvos padronizados atuais. Discutimos como o modelo ACL pode ser clinicamente útil e incentivamos o desenvolvimento de um tratamento mais integrativo para a FAP.
... The ability to empathize with others is often considered a key ingredient for successful social interactions. However, the accuracy of inferring another's thoughts and feelings, also referred to as empathic accuracy (EA), is at least equally important (Ickes & Hodges, 2013;Zaki et al., 2008;Zaki et al., 2009). Several studies have emphasised the importance of the eye region for inferring the internal states of others (Baron-Cohen et al., 1997;Buchan et al., 2007;Eisenbarth & Alpers, 2011;Hall Correspondence should be addressed to Mirjam C. M. Wever, Leiden University, Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences, 2300 RB Leiden, The Netherlands. ...
Article
Full-text available
The eye region is thought to play an important role in the ability to accurately infer others' feelings, or empathic accuracy (EA), which is an important skill for social interaction. However, most past studies used static pictures, including only visual information, and knowledge about the contribution of the eye region to EA when visual information is presented together with verbal content is lacking. We therefore examined whether eye gazing contributes to EA during videos of emotional autobiographical stories including both visual and verbal content. One hundred seven perceivers watched videos of targets talking about positive and negative life events and continuously rated the targets' feelings during the videos. Simultaneously, perceivers' eyes were tracked. After each video, perceivers reported on their feelings and the extent to which they empathized with and took the perspective of the targets. In contrast to studies using static pictures, we found that gazing to the eyes of targets during the videos did not significantly contribute to EA. At the same time, results on the association between the amount of gaze towards the eye region of targets and perceivers' state and trait empathy ratings suggest that eye gazing might signal empathy and social engagement to others.
... It is important to point out that, as a standard test with a fixed set of stimuli or items, the WIPS is limited to measuring IPA as a passive, observer-type skill, which may not be the same skill that people display in real-life face-to-face interactions. The alternative would be to use a (dyadic) interaction paradigm in which participants engage in a conversation with someone else and are asked to judge their interaction partner's personality, thoughts and feelings, or other traits or states afterwards (e.g., Ickes & Hodges, 2013). Participants' IPA would then be calculated, for instance, as the correspondence of these judgments with the partner's self-rated traits or states. ...
Article
Accurately reading others’ emotions, personality, intentions etc. (interpersonal accuracy, IPA) is crucial to successful interpersonal interactions. However, most existing tests to measure IPA focus on people’s ability to recognize emotions and do not specifically target the workplace. The newly developed WIPS (Workplace Interpersonal Perception Skill) test assesses multiple aspects of interpersonal accuracy using brief video segments for which test-takers are asked to assess personality, intentions, future social behavior, thoughts, situational affect and social attributes of the targets in the video. Different criteria such as actual behavior shown were used to establish the correct answers in multiple-choice questions. Seven studies that subsequently tested the psychometric properties of a large item pool in English, French, and German are presented. The WIPS is unidimensional, shows acceptable internal consistency, and correlates in expected ways with emotion recognition, personality judgment accuracy, and a variety of other measures. Higher WIPS scores also predicted membership as well as leadership in student groups (e.g., in volunteer and music-oriented groups). These results contribute to the integration of various research strands under the broader IPA construct. The WIPS also complements existing, more specific tests and represents a useful tool for research and practice in the organizational field and beyond.
Article
Full-text available
Unlabelled: The aim of this study was to broadly investigate the role of relationship-, self-, and partner-serving motivation in empathic accuracy in couples' conflict interactions. To this end, a laboratory study was set up in which couples (n = 172) participated in a conflict interaction task, followed immediately by a video-review task during which they reported their own feelings and thoughts and inferred those of their partner to assess empathic accuracy. We used both trait and state measures of relationship-, self-, and partner-serving motivation, and we experimentally induced these three categories of motivation. Relationship-serving state motivation predicted greater empathic accuracy. In contrast, experimentally induced partner-serving motivation resulted in less empathic accuracy for men. Self-serving motivation was not found to be associated with empathic accuracy, nor were any of the trait measures. These findings underscore the complexity of the association between motivation and empathic accuracy in partners' conflict interactions. Supplementary information: The online version contains supplementary material available at 10.1007/s11031-022-09982-x.
Article
Unlabelled: Accurately judging emotion regulation (ER) may help facilitate and maintain social relationships. We investigated the accuracy and bias of ER judgments and their social correlates in a two-part study with 136 married couples (ages 23-85 years). Couples completed trait measures of their own and their partner's suppression, reappraisal, and situation selection. On a separate day, they discussed a conflict, then rated their own and their partner's suppression during the discussion. Couples accurately judged their partner's trait level use of all ER strategies, but they were most accurate for suppression. In contrast, they did not accurately judge state suppression; they showed a similarity bias, such that their own use of state suppression predicted judgments of their partner's suppression. Greater relationship satisfaction predicted positive biases at the trait level (e.g., overestimating reappraisal, underestimating suppression), but not the state level. Relationship length did not predict ER accuracy or bias. Findings suggest ER is more detectable at the trait level than state level and for strategies with more behavioral cues. Greater relationship satisfaction may signal positive perceptions of partners' ER patterns. Supplementary information: The online version contains supplementary material available at 10.1007/s42761-022-00144-3.
Article
Full-text available
The article presents a conceptual model of close relationships. Close relationships are a specific and multicomponent phenomenon in the living space of modernity. On the basis of the analysis of sources and rethinking of the data obtained earlier, close relationships are considered as a type of interpersonal relations. It is a meaningful, selective relationship of people aimed at satisfying their need for love and belonging, based on affiliative feelings and attachment. Closeness in relationships is defined as a structural property of the dyad, including the strength, frequency, psychological distance, the variety of interrelationships that exist between people. It is noted that close relationships are set by social roles. Reciprocal roles, for example, parent and child, husband and wife set the initial belonging of these relationships to the category of close, but do not guarantee the presence in them of intimacy as a qualitative characteristic. The invariant (partners' attachment to each other, emotional experiences, psychological distance; value-semantic unity; involvement) categorical attributes of close relationships were identified. The variation signs characterising their main types (romantic, marital, friendship, love, kinship) are described. It is noted that the dynamics conditioned by the totality of factors determines the variety of close relationships – dysfunctional and functional. We understood the limitations and prospects for further developments in this area.
Preprint
Full-text available
For one partner, the kitchen looks clean; for the other, the kitchen needs cleaning. Is the satisfaction with our relationship tied to whether we see the world the same way our partner does? In two dyadic longitudinal studies, we investigated how similarity in the perception of situations predicts relationship satisfaction in romantic relationships. In Study 1, 203 couples participated in a 14-day diary. In Study 2, 139 couples participated in a 7-day experience sampling. At each time point, partners separately reported their perception of a situation they had experienced together, using the DIAMONDS taxonomy (Study 1) and the Situational Interdependence Scale (Study 2). Across taxonomies, more similar situation perception positively predicted state relationship satisfaction and changes in trait relationship satisfaction at follow-up. Findings have important implications for understanding couples’ everyday lives and speak to the consequences of situation perception in close relationships.
Chapter
Full-text available
As the eclectic nature of this volume testifies, compatibility in relationships has been approached from a variety of perspectives. However, integrative efforts are rare and it is difficult to keep track of authors who run in different academic circles. Consequently, there are many pockets of research that have developed independently, although they speak to similar issues.
Chapter
Full-text available
Article
Full-text available
Our model outlines the cognitive operations, response strategies, and dynamics of the attachment system in adulthood. It also describes the goals of each attachment strategy and their psychological manifestations and consequences. Whereas the goals of security-based strategies are to form intimate relationships, to build a person's psychological resources, and to broaden his or her perspectives and capacities, the goal of secondary attachment strategies is to manage attachment-system activation and reduce or eliminate the pain caused by frustrated proximity-seeking attempts. Hyperactivating strategies keep the person focused on the search for love and security, and constantly on the alert for threats, separations, and betrayals. Deactivating strategies keep the attachment system in check, with serious consequences for cognitive and emotional openness. This framework serves as our "working model" for understanding the activation and functioning of the attachment system in adulthood. It also provides a framework for reviewing our research findings, which is the mission of the next section.
Article
To facilitate a multidimensional approach to empathy the Interpersonal Reactivity Index (IRI) includes 4 subscales: Perspective-Taking (PT) Fantasy (FS) Empathic Concern (EC) and Personal Distress (PD). The aim of the present study was to establish the convergent and discriminant validity of these 4 subscales. Hypothesized relationships among the IRI subscales between the subscales and measures of other psychological constructs (social functioning self-esteem emotionality and sensitivity to others) and between the subscales and extant empathy measures were examined. Study subjects included 677 male and 667 female students enrolled in undergraduate psychology classes at the University of Texas. The IRI scales not only exhibited the predicted relationships among themselves but also were related in the expected manner to other measures. Higher PT scores were consistently associated with better social functioning and higher self-esteem; in contrast Fantasy scores were unrelated to these 2 characteristics. High EC scores were positively associated with shyness and anxiety but negatively linked to egotism. The most substantial relationships in the study involved the PD scale. PD scores were strongly linked with low self-esteem and poor interpersonal functioning as well as a constellation of vulnerability uncertainty and fearfulness. These findings support a multidimensional approach to empathy by providing evidence that the 4 qualities tapped by the IRI are indeed separate constructs each related in specific ways to other psychological measures.