ChapterPDF Available

Empathic accuracy: Judging thoughts and feelings

Authors:

Abstract

Key issues in the study of empathic accuracy (accuracy in inferring the specific content of other people’s thoughts and feelings) are explored through the answers to 10 questions. These questions concern (1) how empathic accuracy is measured and studied; (2) how accurate perceivers are, relative to chance and across different types of relationships; (3) which information channels are the most important; (4) why “female motivation” may be more important than “female intuition”; (5) the two most obvious and reliable individual-difference predictors of empathic accuracy; (6) the importance of “target readability” in empathic accuracy; (7) the importance of attention and (8) motivation in empathic accuracy; (9) when empathic accuracy hurts, instead of helps, close relationships; and (10) empathic accuracy’s linkage to various clinical problems and populations.
... In a therapeutic environment a proper regulation of the empathic response strengthens the patient-therapist relationship incrementing therapy success (Goldsmith et al., 2015;Teding van Berkhout and Malouff, 2016). One way to do this is through the exertion of cognitive control to regulate their own perspective taking and emotional appreciation (Ickes, 2016;Lamm et al., 2007;Norcross and Lambert, 2019;Rogers, 1992;Weisz and Cikara, 2021). Part of this involves avoiding prejudice, rapid judgements, and the use of expressive suppression as an emotional regulation strategy, which hinders empathy (Gross and John, 2003). ...
... psychotherapists, when compared to nonpsychotherapists, showed greater scores in Fantasy (FS) and Perspective Taking (PT), both cognitiveempathy constructs that refer, in layman's terms, ''to put yourself in the other's shoes" (Shamay-Tsoory, 2011). Psychotherapists have to constantly modulate their perspective to understand more accurately the other's viewpoint (Rogers, 1992;Lamm et al., 2007;Ickes, 2016;Norcross and Lambert, 2019). Psychotherapists also showed less use of Expressive Suppression, which is an emotion regulation strategy that inhibits emotional responding behaviors; this inhibition creates a sense of incongruence and may consume cognitive resources, hindering social performance and generating discomfort to others. ...
Article
In a therapeutic environment a proper regulation of the empathic response strengthens the patient-therapist relationship. Thus, it is important that psychotherapists constantly regulate their own perspective and emotions to better understand the other’s affective state. We compared the empathic abilities of a group of 52 psychotherapists with a group of 92 non-psychotherapists and found psychometric differences. Psychotherapists showed greater scores in Fantasy and Perspective Taking, both cognitive empathy constructs, and lower scores in the use of expressive suppression, an emotional regulation strategy that hampers the empathic response, suggesting that psychotherapists exert top-down processes that influence their empathic response. In addition, the expected sex differences in empathic concern and expressive suppression were only present in the non-psychotherapist group. To see if such psychometric differences were related to a distinctive functional organization of brain networks, we contrasted the resting state functional connectivity of empathy-related brain regions between a group of 18 experienced psychotherapists and a group of 18 non-psychotherapists. Psychotherapists showed greater functional connectivity between the left anterior insula and the dorsomedial prefrontal cortex, and less connectivity between rostral anterior cingulate cortex and the orbito prefrontal cortex. Both associations correlated with Perspective Taking scores. Considering that the psychometric differences between groups were in the cognitive domain and that the functional connectivity associations involve areas related to cognitive regulation processes, these results suggest a relationship between the functional brain organization of psychotherapists and the cognitive regulation of their empathic response.
... Given the dynamic interaction with their patient, psychotherapists need to constantly regulate their empathic response. One way to do this is through the exertion of cognitive control to regulate their own perspective taking and emotional appreciation (Decety, 2011;Ickes, 2016;Lamm et al., 2007;Norcross, John C & Lambert, Michael J, 2019;Rogers, 1992). Part of this, involves avoiding prejudice or rapid judgements, and the use of expressive suppression as an emotional regulation strategy, which hinders empathy (Gross & John, 2003). ...
... In this study, psychotherapists when compared to non-psychotherapists, showed greater scores in Fantasy (FS) and Perspective Taking (PT), both are cognitive-empathy constructs, that refer, in layman's terms, "to put yourself in the other's shoes" (Shamay-Tsoory, 2011). These differences might be related to their professional practice, psychotherapists have to constantly modulated their perspective to understand more accurate the "other's" viewpoint (Ickes, 2016;Lamm et al., 2007;Norcross, John C & Lambert, Michael J, 2019;Rogers, 1992). Psychotherapists also showed less use of Expressive Suppression, which is an emotion regulation strategy that inhibits emotional responding behaviors; this inhibition requires greater consumption of cognitive resources, hindering social performance and generating discomfort to others, as a result, it lessens the empathic response, thus, psychotherapists try to avoid the use of such strategy (Butler et al., 2003;Gross & John, 2003;Norcross, John C & Lambert, Michael J, 2019). ...
Preprint
Full-text available
Psychotherapists constantly regulate their own perspective and emotions to better understand the other state. We compared 52 psychotherapists with 92 non-psychotherapists to characterized psychometric constructs like, Fantasy (FS) and Perspective Taking (PT), and the emotion regulation strategy of Expressive Suppression (ES), which hampers the empathic response. Psychotherapists showed greater FS, PT and lower ES scores. In a subsample (36, 18 ea.), we did a functional connectivity (FC) study. Psychotherapists showed greater FC between the left anterior insula and the dorsomedial prefrontal cortex; and less connectivity between rostral anterior cingulate cortex and the orbito prefrontal cortex. Both associations correlated with the PT scores and suggest a cognitive regulatory effect related to the empathic response. Considering, that the psychometric differences between groups were in the cognitive domain and that the FC associations are related to cognitive processes, these results suggest that psychotherapists have a greater cognitive regulation over their empathic response.
... We first assessed gender specific differences in aesthetic inference abilities. Aesthetic inference abilities were computed in correlating each participant´s Other-assessment scores on the three aesthetic dimensions with the mean Self-assessment scores for the respective dimension (minus the single participant), which resulted in an inference ability score per participant per aesthetic dimension (see Ickes, 2016;Ickes, 2001;Ickes, 1993). We did not find significant differences between female and male partic-ipants´aesthetic inference abilities for the entire participant group. ...
Article
Full-text available
The relation between empathy and aesthetic experience has been stated early in empirical aesthetics. Aesthetic empathy means the ability to take the perspective of an artwork´s depicted content or form. Nowadays, empathy defines the ability to infer other persons´ mental states and feelings. In this study, we investigated the relationship between empathy and aesthetic response and aesthetic inference abilities. Subjects judged twenty-four visual artworks on an affective, a cognitive, and a beauty dimension, in a Self- and Other-assessment. We analyzed these data in relation to self-judged empathy on four dimensions: emotional and cognitive empathy in fictitious and in real-world situations. Additionally, we considered gender differences in empathy and aesthetic response. Results show (gender-specific) correlations between empathy and aesthetic response and aesthetic inference abilities. This supports the assumption that empathy assists to adopt the perspective of visual artworks as well as to infer the aesthetic preferences of other people.
... Research suggests it is verbal and non-verbal behaviour, not empathy, which results in greater accuracy when inferring the mental states and emotions of others. Most importantly, when inferring the minds of others, we tend to focus on what is said and how it is said, not empathic stabs in the dark (Ickes 2016). 5 Could managers be trained to be more empathetic? ...
Article
Full-text available
Within the business and management literature, empathy has taken on increased importance as a central element to leadership, improving marketing strategies, corporate philanthropy, creating organizational connectedness, and as a strategy for preventing managerial wrongdoing. Although defining empathy is difficult, it is the identification with another’s thoughts and emotions through an imaginative process. This identification, ideally, will facilitate a wider connection with stakeholders beyond self-interest and motivate a better business environment. This article argues empathy is an overblown concept that is only marginally supported by the philosophical and psychological research and, therefore, has limited application to business. Empathy is problematic because our inferences of mind are often inaccurate; not everyone is good at empathizing; it’s not necessary to understand action intention; doesn’t motivate helping behaviour; and could lead to immoral actions. My stance is definitively anti-empathy; perspective-taking is not sufficient or necessary as a management or business tool. Our understanding of people rests, not on empathy, but with our emotions, norms, and the social context in which we find ourselves.
... Empathic accuracy is a term referring to the ability to accurately infer others' spontaneously experienced thoughts and feelings, typically after having a live interaction with the target person (Hodges et al. 2015, Ickes 2016. After the interaction, each party reviews the video, pausing it whenever they remember having a particular thought or feeling. ...
Article
The field of nonverbal communication (NVC) has a long history involving many cue modalities, including face, voice, body, touch, and interpersonal space; different levels of analysis, including normative, group, and individual differences; and many substantive themes that cross from psychology into other disciplines. In this review, we focus on NVC as it pertains to individuals and social interaction. We concentrate specifically on (a) the meanings and correlates of cues that are enacted (sent) by encoders and (b) the perception of nonverbal cues and the accuracy of such perception. Frameworks are presented for conceptualizing and understanding the process of sending and receiving nonverbal cues. Measurement issues are discussed, and theoretical issues and new developments are covered briefly. Although our review is primarily oriented within social and personality psychology, the interdisciplinary nature of NVC is evident in the growing body of research on NVC across many areas of scientific inquiry. Expected final online publication date for the Annual Review of Psychology Volume 70 is January 4, 2019. Please see http://www.annualreviews.org/page/journal/pubdates for revised estimates.
Article
Empathy is an integral part of socioemotional well-being, but recent research has highlighted some of its downsides. Here we examine literature that establishes when, how much, and what aspects of empathy promote specific outcomes. After reviewing a theoretical framework that characterizes empathy as a suite of separable components, we examine evidence showing how dissociations of these components affect important socioemotional outcomes and describe emerging evidence suggesting that these components can be independently and deliberately regulated. Finally, we advocate for an approach to a multicomponent view of empathy that accounts for the interrelations among components. This perspective advances scientific conceptualization of empathy and offers suggestions for tailoring empathy to help people realize their social, emotional, and occupational goals.
Article
Full-text available
This study investigated age differences and similarities in younger and older women’ ability to accurately judge others’ emotions, personality, and rapport, collectively referred to as interpersonal accuracy (IPA). A sample of 124 young (ages 18-22) and 94 older women (ages 60-90) completed four different IPA tasks: two emotion perception tasks using posed stimuli, and two interaction-based tasks where participants judged their interaction partner’s personality and perceived rapport. Accuracy performance was analyzed using both frequentist and Bayesian approaches. Young women outperformed older women in judging emotions from static facial expressions as well as dynamic multimodal emotion portrayals, but not in judging an interaction partner’s personality traits or rating of rapport. The age difference was stronger for the dynamic as compared to the static stimuli. Performance across tasks was correlated more in older than in younger women, in particular among the emotion recognition tasks. These results offer some evidence for a single IPA skill in older compared to younger adults and may guide future work in measuring changes to interpersonal accuracy across the adult lifespan.
Article
Full-text available
Purpose: Role-taking, perspective taking, and empathy have developed through parallel literatures in sociology and psychology. All three concepts address the ways that people attune the self to others' thoughts and feelings. Despite conceptual and operational overlap, researchers have yet to synthesize existing research across the three concepts. We undertake the task of theoretical synthesis, constructing a model in which role-taking emerges as a multidimensional process that includes perspective taking and empathy as component parts. Approach: We review the literatures on role-taking, perspective taking, and empathy across disciplines. Focusing on definitions, measures, and interventions, we discern how the concepts overlap, how they are distinct, and how they work together in theoretically meaningful ways. Findings: The review identifies two key axes on which each concept varies: the relative roles of affect and cognition, and the relative emphasis on self and structure. The review highlights the cognitive nature of perspective taking, the affective nature of empathy, and the structural nature of role-taking. In a move toward theoretical synthesis, we propose a definition that centers role-taking as a sociological construct, with perspective taking and empathy representing cognition and affect, respectively. Social implications: Role-taking is an important part of selfhood and community social life. It is a skill that varies in patterned ways, including along lines of status and power. Theoretical synthesis clarifies the process of role-taking and fosters the construction of effective interventions aimed at equalizing role-taking in interpersonal interaction.
Article
Growing evidence suggests that interpersonal responsiveness-feeling understood, validated, and cared for by other people-plays a key role in shaping the quality of one's social interactions and relationships. But what enables people to be interpersonally responsive to others? In the current study, we argued that responsiveness requires not only accurate understanding but also compassionate motivation. Specifically, we hypothesized that understanding another person's thoughts and feelings (empathic accuracy) would foster responsive behavior only when paired with benevolent motivation (empathic concern). To test this idea, we asked couples (N = 91) to discuss a personal or relationship stressor; we then assessed empathic accuracy, empathic concern, and responsive behavior. As predicted, when listeners' empathic concern was high, empathic accuracy facilitated responsiveness; but when empathic concern was low, empathic accuracy was unhelpful (and possibly harmful) for responsiveness. These findings provide the first evidence that cognitive and affective forms of empathy work together to facilitate responsive behavior.
ResearchGate has not been able to resolve any references for this publication.