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Objectives (1) To examine the psychometric properties of the Basic Empathy Scale (BES) with Spanish adolescents, comparing a two and a three-dimensional structure;(2) To analyse the relationship between the three-dimensional empathy and social and normative adjustment in school. Design Transversal and ex post facto retrospective study. Confirmatory factorial analysis, multifactorial invariance analysis and structural equations models were used. Participants 747 students (51.3% girls) from Cordoba, Spain, aged 12–17 years (M=13.8; SD=1.21). Results The original two-dimensional structure was confirmed (cognitive empathy, affective empathy), but a three-dimensional structure showed better psychometric properties, highlighting the good fit found in confirmatory factorial analysis and adequate internal consistent valued, measured with Cronbach’s alpha and McDonald’s omega. Composite reliability and average variance extracted showed better indices for a three-factor model. The research also showed evidence of measurement invariance across gender. All the factors of the final three-dimensional BES model were direct and significantly associated with social and normative adjustment, being most strongly related to cognitive empathy. Conclusions This research supports the advances in neuroscience, developmental psychology and psychopathology through a three-dimensional version of the BES, which represents an improvement in the original two-factorial model. The organisation of empathy in three factors benefits the understanding of social and normative adjustment in adolescents, in which emotional disengagement favours adjusted peer relationships. Psychoeducational interventions aimed at improving the quality of social life in schools should target these components of empathy.
Herrera-LópezM, etal. BMJ Open 2017;7:e015347. doi:10.1136/bmjopen-2016-015347
Open Access
Objectives (1) To examine the psychometric properties of
the Basic Empathy Scale (BES) with Spanish adolescents,
comparing a two and a three-dimensional structure;(2) To
analyse the relationship between the three-dimensional
empathy and social and normative adjustment in school.
Design Transversal and ex post facto retrospective study.
Conrmatory factorial analysis, multifactorial invariance
analysis and structural equations models were used.
Participants 747 students (51.3% girls) from Cordoba,
Spain, aged 12–17 years (M=13.8; SD=1.21).
Results The original two-dimensional structure was
conrmed (cognitive empathy, affective empathy), but a
three-dimensional structure showed better psychometric
properties, highlighting the good t found in conrmatory
factorial analysis and adequate internal consistent
valued, measured with Cronbach's alpha and McDonald's
omega. Composite reliability and average variance
extracted showed better indices for a three-factor model.
The research also showed evidence of measurement
invariance across gender. All the factors of the nal three-
dimensional BES model were direct and signicantly
associated with social and normative adjustment, being
most strongly related to cognitive empathy.
Conclusions This research supports the advances
in neuroscience, developmental psychology and
psychopathology through a three-dimensional version
of the BES, which represents an improvement in the
original two-factorial model. The organisation of empathy
in three factors benets the understanding of social and
normative adjustment in adolescents, in which emotional
disengagement favours adjusted peer relationships.
Psychoeducational interventions aimed at improving
the quality of social life in schools should target these
components of empathy.
Empathy dimensions
The study of empathy has predominantly been
carried out from three study areas: neuropsy-
chology, developmental psychology and social
psychology.1 Every one of these scientific
perspectives has significantly contributed to
the configuration of the concept, in which
at least three different cognitive-emotional
processes are identified: (1) feeling what
another person is feeling; (2) knowing how
to interpret what the other person is feeling,
that is, recognising his/her emotions and (3)
showing interest in responding when facing
the other person’s emotion.1 2
The main theoretical contributions have
recognised that empathy is a capacity that
includes affective elements, which allow
us to automatically react before the other
person’s emotion and cognitive elements,
which implies understanding the other
person’s perspective, being this process more
controlled and conscious.3–5
Studies of empathy have consistently
demonstrated the use of examining both the
cognitive and affective elements of empathy
Suitability of a three-dimensional
model to measure empathy and its
relationship with social and normative
adjustment in Spanish adolescents: a
cross-sectional study
Mauricio Herrera-López,1 Olga Gómez-Ortiz,2 Rosario Ortega-Ruiz,2
Darrick Jolliffe,3 Eva M. Romera2
To cite: Herrera-LópezM,
Gómez-OrtizO, Ortega-
RuizR, etal. Suitability of
a three-dimensional model
to measure empathy and
its relationship with social
and normative adjustment in
Spanish adolescents: a cross-
sectional study. BMJ Open
2017;7:e015347. doi:10.1136/
Prepublication history for
this paper is available online.
To view these les, please visit
the journal online (http:// dx. doi.
org/ 10. 1136/ bmjopen- 2016-
Received 29 November 2016
Revised 15 August 2017
Accepted 23 August 2017
1Department of Psychology,
University of Nariño, Pasto,
Nariño, Colombia
2Department of Psychology,
University of Córdoba, Córdoba,
Andalucía, Spain
3Department of Criminology,
University of Greenwich, Old
Royal Navy College, London, UK
Correspondence to
PhD Mauricio Herrera-López;
mherrera@ udenar. edu. co
Strengths and limitations of this study
This paper could benet the understanding and
study of school violence given the offers an updated
perspective of the study of empathy from three
dimensions (cognitive empathy, emotional contagion
and emotional disengagement), and its inuence on
social and normative adjustment in school.
The application of rigorous analysis to test the
relationships between study variables and for the
analysis of the psychometric properties of the Basic
Empathy Scale(conrmatory factorial analyses,
structural equation models and multigroup factorial
invariance analyses were used).
This study acknowledges the need for longitudinal
and cross-cultural studies to improve condence
in these results; likewise, the analysis could be
limited by not having deepened the measurement
of empathy in each dimension according to gender
differences. on September 25, 2017 - Published by from
2Herrera-LópezM, etal. BMJ Open 2017;7:e015347. doi:10.1136/bmjopen-2016-015347
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to better understand adolescent behaviour.6 7 In addition,
gender is an essential aspect to consider in the studies of
empathy at this age. Multiple studies show that women
present higher levels of affective empathy than men.8
However, studies outline that the gender differences
could be biased by the way of measuring this concept9 and
also due to the cultural aspects, which has traditionally
linked the most affective values to the female gender.10
Recent research suggests that the classical two-dimen-
sional model of empathy (affective vs cognitive) may
benefit from a reconceptualisation,11 12 which includes a
third process based on the concept named by Decety and
Jackson2 as ‘intention to respond to the others’ emotion’.
The advances in neuropsychological and neuroim-
aging research show that empathy may be conceptual-
ised into three components, each involving interacting,
yet partially non-overlapping neural circuits.11 13 From
this perspective, it seems to be more coherent to show
a three-dimensional empathy construct made up of: (1)
emotional contagion, which refers to the ability to expe-
rience others’ emotional states,14 (2) cognitive empathy,
which implies the ability to understand others’ emotions
and (3) emotional disengagement, the ability to avoid
other people’s emotions; perhaps as a form of self-protec-
tion against the anxiety generated by others’ emotional
states.15 Emotional contagion appears to be associated
with subcortical structures such as the limbic system,
which provides a rapid assessment of the valence of
others’ emotions (pleasant or aversive), essentially auto-
matically,16 17 and mirror neurons. This motor neurons
are located in the premotor, motor and anterior intra-
parietal area and are activated when we do some move-
ments if we are being watched by other people (eg, facial
mimicry of basic emotional expressions). They contribute
to share the affective world with the others from the first
childhood.18 19 However, this process of emotional conta-
gion is not sufficient in the later developmental stages
to understand the others’ emotions. Empathy requires
understanding those emotions and their development,
which implies building a representation of them which
allows us to be conscious of them without confusing them
with ours. This sophisticated function which refers to the
cognitive empathy lies on the mind theory and appears
to involve activation of the insular cortex, the ventrome-
dial prefrontal cortex (PFC) and the medial PFC.11 These
phylogenetically recent structures which are more slowly
developed than other brain areas reach their maturation
at the end of adolescence or at the beginning of adult-
hood. Therefore, it is not until that moment that we
can fully display the executive and regulation functions
linked to them. The emotional disengagement, which
completes the empathy construct, plays an essential role
to display an adaptive empathetic response because it is
an ability which avoids the fact that an extreme emotional
affectation occurs compromising our welfare. It is located
in the orbitofrontal cortex, the medial and dorsolateral
prefrontal cortex and the anterior cingulate cortex. Its
full power is reached in later developmental stages.13
The emotional regulation has been proved to be the
affective process which allows to combine the previous
empathic dimensions, being involved to an extent in
others’ emotion and managing to understanding it, but
without causing high levels of stress or discomfort.20 From
a developmental point of view, the processes related to
emotional contagion are the first to appear. Later, as
age and brain maturation progress, other cognitive and
emotional regulation functions are developed (cognitive
empathy and emotional disengagement); all are related
to the executive functions and to the development of the
theory of the mind, acquired at later ages.21–23
On the other hand, a three-factor empathy model
can offer certain potential benefits to differentiate
between primary and secondary psychopathy. Both forms
of psychopathy are associated with severe antisocial
behaviour, and the empathic deficits are one of the most
proffered causes. For primary psychopaths, these deficits
appear to be limited to affective empathy, with cognitive
empathy being at normal levels, thus the psychopath’s
glib and superficial charm but inappropriate affect.24
In contrast, secondary psychopaths are characterised by
affect instability and anxiety, which is not well accounted
by a two-factor conceptualisation of empathy.25 However,
using a three-factor model, secondary psychopaths could
have sufficient cognitive empathy and emotional conta-
gion but more limited abilities to emotionally disen-
gage; thus anxiety occurs, being overwhelmed with
others’ emotions. There is clearly explanatory power in
further exploring this proposed ‘new’ factor structure
of empathy, as this could contribute to a more coherent
understanding of the relationship between empathy and
this and other antisocial and prosocial behaviours.
Measurement of multidimensional empathy
One instrument which could accommodate this new
conceptualising of the definition of empathy4 is the
Basic Empathy Scale (BES).5 This device has shown good
psychometric properties and is one of the most widely
used in Europe. Although there are other instruments
that are commonly used to measure empathy in adoles-
cents, this scale is the only one that has been originally
developed using this population. The items on this scale
were selected based on four of the five ‘basic emotions’
(fear, sadness, anger, happiness) and it has been validated
in a number of countries using samples of varying ages
including children from France26 and Spain27; preadoles-
cents from Slovakia28 and a combination of adolescents
and adults from France,21 29 Italy,30 Portugal,31 China,32 33
Singapore,34 El Salvador,35 Peru36 and Spain.37 Although
appropriate psychometric properties were observed
in these baseline studies and the two-factor structure
proposed by the authors was an evidence (cognitive
empathy and affective empathy), recent research using
a French sample showed optimal results using an alterna-
tive structure, with the reorganisation of the items into the
three factors.21 26 A further potential benefit of this study
is that Spanish is one of the most widely used languages in on September 25, 2017 - Published by from
Herrera-LópezM, etal. BMJ Open 2017;7:e015347. doi:10.1136/bmjopen-2016-015347
Open Access
the world; therefore, a new three-dimensional version of
the BES—translated and validated in Spanish—could be
a significant contribution to the study of empathy in the
many Spanish-speaking countries.
Three-dimensional empathy and social and normative
There is growing interest in the study of empathy and its
potential associations with the development and mainte-
nance of peer relations.38 This is because studies continue
to demonstrate that empathy is positively associated with
psychosocial adjustment21 39 and negatively associated
with aggressive behaviours such as bullying and cyberbul-
lying.27 40 41 For example, greater levels of empathy have
been associated with an increased likelihood of self-re-
ported prosocial behaviour among school-aged children.5
However, there is limited research in studies considering
empathy from a three-factor conceptualisation.
Clearly, a more comprehensive understanding of the
relationship between the three factors of empathy and
social behaviour is warranted. This includes examining
how empathy and its constituent parts might relate to
social and normative adjustment in schools. Social adjust-
ment refers to the degree to which a person engages in
socially competent behaviours adaptive to the immediate
social context,42 and normative adjustment refers to the
ability to align behaviour with social conventions and
norms that guarantee respect towards the others.43 This
collection of attitudes and behaviours (eg, cooperation,
solidarity, mutual acceptance, respect) are key compo-
nents of a good collective school climate.43 44
This study presents two aims: (1) to analyse the
psychometric properties of the BES in a large sample of
Spanish adolescents and compare the three-factor struc-
ture (shown to be the best in studies conducted with
non-Spanish adolescents) with the two-factor structure
(the only factorial structure tested with Spanish popula-
tions); (2) to examine the associations between empathy
and social and normative adjustment in school.
The hypotheses of this study were: (1) the three-factor
structure will show better psychometric properties than
the two-factor structure, showing invariance across gender
and (2) cognitive empathy will show the strongest associa-
tion with both social and normative adjustment.
Study design
The study was a cross-sectional design, ex post facto, retro-
spective study with one group and multiple measures.45
The sampling was incidental, selected under the following
criteria of accessibility: permission given by the educa-
tional centre and geographical proximity for a better
displacement. According to statistical requirements, to
carry out an instrument validation, it is necessary to have
at least 400 participants in total.46 Thus, four educational
centres of Córdoba, Andalusia, southern Spain, were
chosen, where all the students took part. The public and
private character of the centres was controlled so that they
were represented in the sample, so half of the selected
centres belonged to every simple type of school. The final
sample was composed by 747 Spanish adolescents (51.3%
girls). They were students of secondary education (high
school) and were aged between 12 and 17 years (M=13.84,
Empathy was measured with the BES.5 This scale has 20
Likert-type items with five possible responses (1=strongly
disagree to 5=strongly agree), originally organised into
two dimensions: cognitive empathy (nine items) and affec-
tive empathy (11 items).5 Additionally, we used the three-
factor version that redistributes the original elements
by organising them in: emotional contagion (six items),
cognitive empathy (eight items) and emotional disen-
gagement (six items).21 Higher scores indicate higher
levels of empathy.
To measure social adjustment, which refers to the degree
to which a person engages in socially competent behaviours
adaptive to the immediate social context, the Social Adjust-
ment Scale was applied. This presents nine Likert-type
items, with seven possible responses (1=strongly disagree to
7=strongly agree). An example item for the social adjust-
ment scale is: ‘My classmates are interested in me’.43 To
measure the normative adjustment, which refers to the
ability to align behaviour with conventions and social norms
that guarantee respect for others, the Normative Adjust-
ment Scale was applied. This contains five Likert-type items,
also with seven possible responses (1=strongly disagree to
7=strongly agree). An example item for the social adjust-
ment scale is: ‘I ask as a question and wait for an answer
before I speak’.43 Higher scores indicate higher levels of
social and normative adjustment. These two last scales were
created and validated in a study on multidimensional social
competence in educated Spanish adolescents.43
Permission of both school management teams and the
expressed authorisation of the adolescents’ families—
through informed and signed consent—were obtained.
Adolescents were also informed that their participation
was voluntary. The paper questionnaires were adminis-
tered by trained researchers and were anonymous. The
average completion time was 30 min. The study was
approved by the Biomedical Research Ethics Committee
of Andalusia and developed in accordance with the
considerations of the Declaration of Helsinki and the
Spanish Society of Psychology.
Initially, the BES scale was translated into Spanish
through the process of ‘parallel back-translation’.47 The
scale content was further validated using a pilot study
with 60 students who assisted in assessing the degree of
comprehension of each item. The students’ proposed
changes were incorporated into the final version. on September 25, 2017 - Published by from
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Table 1 Frequencies and percentages of responses for each item
Items (BES)
BES-1 Las emociones de mis amigos no me afectan mucho. (My friends’ emotions don’t affect me much). 112/15% 72/9.6% 115/15.4% 104/13.9% 344/46.1%
BES-2 Después de estar con un amigo que está triste por algo, por lo general me siento triste. (After being with a friend
who is sad about something, I usually feel sad).
104/13.9% 86/11.5% 141/18.9% 168/22.5% 248/33.2%
BES-3 Puedo entender la felicidad de mi amigo(a) cuando le va bien en algo. (I can understand my friend’s happiness
when s/he does well at something).
13/1.7% 10/1.3% 39/5.3% 85/11.3% 600/80.4
BES-4 Me asusto cuando veo los personajes de una buena película de terror. (I get frightened when I watch the
characters of a good horror lm).
185/24.8% 59/7.9% 92/12.3% 101/13.5% 310/41.5%
BES-5 Me quedo atrapado en los sentimientos de otras personas fácilmente. (I get caught up in other people’s feelings
125/16.7% 90/12% 177/23.7% 135/18.1% 220/29.5%
BES-6 Me resulta difícil saber cuándo mis amigos se asustan. (I nd it hard to know when my friends are frightened). 106/14.1% 80/10.7% 118/15.8% 116/15.6% 327/43.8%
BES-7 No me pongo triste cuando veo a otras personas llorando. (I don’t become sad when I see other people crying). 143/19.1% 60/8.1% 117/15.7% 104/13.9% 323/43.2%
BES-8 Los sentimientos de otras personas no me molestan en absoluto. (Other people’s feelings don’t bother me at
81/10.8% 49/6.6% 62/8.3% 69/9.2% 486/65.1%
BES-9 Cuando alguien se está sintiendo ‘bajo de ánimos’, usualmente puedo entender cómo se siente. (When
someone is feeling ‘down’, I can usually understand how s/he feels).
15/2% 18/2.4% 54/7.2% 126/17% 534/71.4%
BES-10 Por lo general, puedo saber cuándo mis amigos tienen miedo. (I can usually work out when my friends are
50/6.7% 51/6.8% 142/19.1% 181/24.2% 323/43.2%
BES-11 A menudo me pongo triste cuando veo cosas tristes en la televisión o en las películas. (I often become sad
when watching sad things on TV or in lms).
128/17.1% 57/7.6% 102/13.7% 117/15.7% 343/45.9%
BES-12 A menudo puedo entender cómo la gente se siente incluso antes de que me lo digan. (I can often understand
how people are feeling even before they tell me).
34/4.5% 33/4.4% 131/17.6% 161/21.6% 388/51.9%
BES-13 Ver a una persona que se ha enfurecido no tiene ningún efecto sobre mis sentimientos. (Seeing a person who
has been angered has no effect on my feelings).
100/13.4% 82/11% 139/18.6% 129/17.3% 297/39.7%
BES-14 Por lo general, puedo saber cuándo la gente está alegre. (I can usually work out when people are cheerful). 19/2.5% 21/2.8% 83/11.1% 135/18.1% 489/65.5%
BES-15 Tiendo a sentir miedo cuando estoy con amigos que tienen miedo. (I tend to feel scared when I am with friends
who are afraid).
195/26.1% 83/11.1% 168/22.5% 122/16.3% 179/24%
BES-16 Normalmente puedo darme cuenta rápidamente cuando un amigo está enojado. (I can usually realise quickly
when a friend is angry).
31/4.1% 18/2.4% 67/9% 125/16.7% 506/67.8%
BES-17 A menudo me dejo llevar por los sentimientos de mis amigos. (I often get swept up along my friends’ feelings). 170/22.8% 92/12.3% 180/24.1% 150/20.1% 155/20.7%
BES-18 La infelicidad de mi amigo no me hace sentir nada. (My friend’s unhappiness doesn’t make me feel anything). 70/9.4% 48/6.4% 99/13.2% 100/13.4% 430/57.6%
BES-19 Normalmente no soy consciente de los sentimientos de mis amigos. (I am not usually aware of my friends’
70/9.4% 65/8.7% 91/12.2% 100/13.4% 421/56.3%
BES-20 Tengo problemas para averiguar cuando mis amigos están felices. (I have trouble guring out when my friends
are happy).
70/9.4% 65/8.7% 91/12.2% 100/13.4% 421/56.3%
1= strongly disagree; 2= moderately disagree; 3= neither agree nor disagree; 4= moderately agree; 5= strongly agree.
BES, Basic Empathy Scale; Fr, frequency. on September 25, 2017 - Published by from
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Table 2 Descriptive of the scales
Skewness KurtosisM SD
Total empathy 3.86 0.59 −0.29 −0.51
Twofactors Affective empathy 3.56 0.76 −0.14 −0.64
Cognitive empathy 4.22 0.60 −0.73 0.29
Threefactors Emotional contagion 3.33 0.94 −0.25 −0.57
Cognitive empathy 4.23 0.60 −0.72 0.38
Emotional disengagement 3.89 1.00 −0.80 −0.12
Social adjustment 5.86 0.82 −0.87 0.58
Normative adjustment 5.59 1.08 −0.96 1.37
Analysis of data
Questionnaires with missing data or those partially
completed were removed. Eight per cent (64) of the data
collected were lost. Only fully completed questionnaires
were used (747).
To test the multivariate normality, the Mardia’s coef-
ficient was analysed using the MVN48 package in R
Confirmatory factor analyses (CFA) and structural equa-
tion modelling (SEM) were performed using the EQS
V.6.2 program.50 Given the categorical nature of the vari-
ables and the absence of multivariate normality, the esti-
mation method of maximum likelihood was chosen with
robust scaling51 and polychoric correlations.52 To assess
the fit of the models the following indices were used: χ2
Satorra-Bentler (
S-B),53 value significance (p>0.001), χ2
party by the df (
S-B/df) (5), the Comparative Fit Index
(CFI), the Non-Normed Fit Index (NNFI) (0.90), the
root mean square error approximation (RMSEA) (0.08)
and the standardised root mean-square residual (SRMR)
(0.08).54 The Akaike Information Criterion (AIC) was
also evaluated to compare the obtained models, being
lower values more desirable.
Given the fact that it was necessary to recognise the
factorial stability of the instrument (three-dimensional
BES) from the measures and differences of empathy
according to gender, a multifactorial invariance analysis
was performed. This kind of testing includes a number of
sequential analyses with progressively restricted models.
Four different models were tested: model 1, where the
same factor structure is imposed on the two groups
(configural invariance); model 2, where covariances are
constrained to be equal across groups; model 3, where
factor loadings are constrained to be equal across groups
(metric invariance) and model 4, where factor load-
ings and covariances are constrained to be equal across
groups (residual invariance). The χ2 difference test (Δχ2
B) was used to test the invariance degree. Non-significant
changes in χ2 suggest intergroup invariance.47 55 Delta (Δ)
differences between the adjustment indicators (NNFI,
IFC, RMSEA and SRMR) were also considered. The cut-off
point suggested in the literature to accept the hypothesis
of invariance across groups is a change of 0.01.56 A multi-
group analysis was performed using EQS V.6.2.50
In addition to calculated the Cronbach’s alpha (α), the
McDonald’s Omega (Ω)57 was used to estimate the internal
consistency of the instruments (α/ Ω 0.60) given that
the variables were categorical and reflected the absence
of multivariant normality.58 The analysis was performed
using the Factor V.9.2 programme.59 Moreover, to esti-
mate the construct reliability, composite reliability (CR)
and the average variance extracted (AVE) were computed.
The cut-off points for these indices are 0.70 and 0.50,
respectively. Discriminant validity was also examined by
comparing the AVE of the pairs of latent variables to the
shared variance—square of the correlation between the
pairs of variables. If the first indicator was higher than the
last indicator, the questionnaire would be considered as
having shown good discriminant validity.60 The adopted
level of significance was 0.05.
Psychometric properties of BES
First, descriptive statistics were established for each item
and dimension (see table 1 and table 2). The Mardia anal-
ysis showed a skewness coefficient of 57.38, p<0.001 and a
kurtosis coefficient of 544.83, p<0.01, indicating non-com-
pliance with the assumption of multivariate normality.
The CFA of the original two-factor structure of the
BES (cognitive empathy, emotional empathy), demon-
strated appropriate fit,
p<0.001; NNFI=0.904; CFI=0.915; RMSEA=0.069 (90%
CI 0.063 to 0.075); SRMR=0.088; AIC=968.962. In addi-
tion, the structure of the three-factor solution (emotional
contagion, cognitive empathy, emotional disengage-
ment) showed a CFA with good fit and indicators,
S-B/(167)=3.702; p<0.001; NNFI=0.919;
CFI=0.929; RMSEA=0.063 (90% CI 0.058 to 0.069);
SRMR=0.077; AIC=284.163 (see figure 1). Internal
consistency values were adequate for both the
two-factor model: αaffective-empathy=0.70; αcognitive-empathy=0.67;
affective-empathy=0.76; cognitive-empathy=0.71 and the three-
factor model: αemotional-contagion=0.66; αcognitive-empathy=0.69; on September 25, 2017 - Published by from
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Figure 1 Conrmatory factor analysis -BES- of three
factors.*p<0.05; BES, Basic Empathy Scale.
Table 3 CR, AVE and square correlations (below the
BES two
dimensional BES three dimensional
CR 0.69 0.63 0.71 0.75 0.83
AVE 0.21 0.17 0.36 0.34 0.55
SC AE-CE (0.68**) EC-CE
AE, affective empathy; AVE, average variance extracted; BES,
Basic Empathy Scale; CE, cognitive empathy; CR, composite
reliability; EC, emotional contagion; ED, emotional disengagement;
SC, square correlations.
αemotional-disengagement=0.80; emotional-contagion=0.82; cognitive-em-
pathy=0.71; emotional- disengagement=0.80.
The CR analysis showed inadequate values below the
cut-off points for the two-factor BES, whereas for the
three-factor model, the values were suitable for each
factor (see table 3). Regarding the AVE, the values were
not adequate for the two-factor model. However, in the
three-dimensional model, the values of emotional conta-
gion and cognitive empathy ranged from 0.33 to 0.55,
which are below the established cut-off points, although
they are higher than the SC values (see table 3).
CFA results of BES by gender were distributed in three
factors with adequate values, for both boys:
S-B/(167)=2.408; p<0.001; NNFI=0.901; CFI=0.909;
RMSEA=0.067 (90% CI 0.059 to 0.076); SRMR=0.080;
AIC=72.162 and girls:
S-B = 371.461;
p<0.001; NNFI=0.933; CFI=0.941; RMSEA=0.059 (90% CI
0.051 to 0.067); SRMR=0.077; AIC=37.461.
The results of the multigroup analysis were adequate.
χ2differences were non-significant between models 11
and 3 and between models 1 and 4. Changes on CFI,
NNFI, RMSEA and SRMR were minimal between all the
models (see table 4). These results show evidence of
measurement invariance across gender groups.54 55
The CFA of the Social Adjustment Scale showed
adequate fit for the Spanish sample:
S-B/(27)=4.679; p<0.001; NNFI=0.948; CFI=0.961;
RMSEA=0.079 (90% CI 0.073 to 0.083); SRMR=0.070;
AIC=122.339. The internal consistency was adequate:
αsocial-adjustment=0.79; social-adjustment=0.80.
The CFA of the Normative Adjustment Scale also
indicated adequate fit:
p<0.001; NNFI=0.982; CFI=0.991; RMSEA=0.034 (90% CI
0.028 to 0.038); SRMR=0.040; AIC=19.073. The internal
consistency was also adequate: αnormative-adjustment=0.79;
Explanatory model
We proposed a SEM in which empathy—organised into
three factors—directly influenced social and normative
adjustment. The analysis of polychoric correlations coef-
ficients (PCC) between model variables showed moderate
values between cognitive empathy and polychoric adjust-
ment (PCC=0.40; p<0.01) and between cognitive empathy
and normative adjustment (PCC=0.38; p<0.01). The
final model (see figure 2) showed good fit indices,
S-B/(521)=2.964; p<0.001; NNFI=0.922;
CFI=0.931; RMSEA=0.056 (90% CI 0.053 to 0.059);
SRMR=0.080; AIC=502.377. This indicated that emotional
contagion was directly related to social adjustment (
=0.12; p<0.05) and normative adjustment (
=0.05; p<0.05). on September 25, 2017 - Published by from
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Open Access
Table 4 Multigroup analysis of BES three-dimensional by gender
Model 1 773.746 334 0.000 0.919 0.928 0.063 0.091 105.75
Model 2 781.257 337 0.000 0.918 0.928 0.063 0.091 107.26 7.511 0.852(NS) 3 0.001 0.000 0.000 0.000
Model 3 792.588 351 0.000 0.922 0.928 0.061 0.092 90.59 18.842 0.881(NS) 17 0.003 0.000 0.002 0.001
Model 4 800.911 354 0.000 0.922 0.927 0.062 0.093 106.65 27.168 0.898(NS) 20 0.003 0.001 0.001 0.002
Model 1=without restrictions; Model 2=covariance restriction; Model 3=restriction factor weights; Model 4=residual restrictions.
AIC,Akaike Information Criterion; BES, Basic Empathy Scale; CFI, Comparative Fit Index; NNFI, Non-Normed Fit Index; RMSEA, root mean square error approximation; SRMR, standardised
root mean-square residual.
Cognitive empathy was also found to be directly related
to both social adjustment (
=0.61; p<0.05) and normative
adjustment (
=0.40; p<0.05). Finally, emotional disen-
gagement was found to have a direct and negative influ-
ence on social adjustment (
= –0.08; p<0.05) and a direct
influence on normative adjustment (
=0.07; p<0.05).
Together these direct relationships accounted for 39% of
the total variance of social adjustment and 17% of norma-
tive adjustment (see figure 2).
The first aim of this study was to analyse the psychometric
properties of BES5 in a sample of Spanish adolescents,
specifically to compare the two-factor structure (cognitive
and affective empathy) with the three-factor structure
(emotional contagion, cognitive empathy and emotional
disengagement). This had not been previously examined
in any Spanish sample. The results, when compared with
those obtained in France21 26 showed better psychometric
properties for the three-factor version, compared with the
original—and much more commonly used—two-factor
structure. The evidence for this comes from numerous
improvements in the adjustment NNFI, CFI, RMSEA,
SRMR indices and the AIC index. In addition, the three-
factor solution showed adequate values of internal consis-
tency for all the factors. This was different Akaike low
value reported for cognitive empathy of α=0.69 with a
French sample.21 When the composite reliability values
were compared, better results were found for the three-
factor structure in comparison to the two-factor structure,
and although low values were obtained in the AVE in
the dimensions of emotional contagion and cognitive
empathy, these values exceeded those of the square of
the correlations.60 Therefore, this suggests that this solu-
tion provides significantly better discriminant validity
compared with the two-factor structure.
Unlike previous research using the BES and empathy
more generally, this new conceptualisation allows to
assess the extent to which an individual retreats from
or does not engage in the emotional states of others, in
addition to the more commonly assessed abilities related
to emotional understanding (cognitive empathy) and
emotional experience (emotional contagion).12 15 Finally,
in contrast with the studies carried out in France which
eliminated one21 and two items,26 this Spanish validated
scale maintains all the items of the original design.
The analysis of the CFA for each gender, as well as the
analysis of the factorial invariance indicated that the
three-factor solution was optimal for the measurement
of empathy for both men and women. Despite existing
socialisation aspects which could contribute to a different
self-perception of empathy between both genders, results
indicate that both girls and boys actually understand
this construct in the same way, which is important to
delve into the understanding of the building process of
emotional identity that female and male children must
develop throughout their lives.61 on September 25, 2017 - Published by from
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Open Access
Figure 2 Structural equation modelling nal. Relationship between empathy of three factors and social and normative
adjustment. *p<0.05; **p<0.01; PCC,polychoric correlations
The second objective of this study was to evaluate the
magnitude of the relationship between the three identi-
fied dimensions of empathy and both social and norma-
tive adjustment. In general, the percentage of variance
explained suggested that empathy was significantly associ-
ated with both of these forms of adjustment. The results of
the final model suggested that cognitive empathy played a
primary role. The relationship between emotional conta-
gion and social adjustment was low but direct, but the
relationship with emotional disengagement was low and
inverse, indicating that higher levels of disengagement—
or failing to fully engage with the others’ emotions—did
not develop to optimal interpersonal relationships.62
However, it is important to consider the moral char-
acteristics of the peer group. Aggressive groups could
expect immoral actions from their members. In this case,
emotional disengagement from peer’s negative emotions
(eg, anger, hostility), particularly those involved in recruit-
ment for bullying for example, could facilitate prosocial
behaviour when facing up considerable emotional peer
pressure. In this case, emotional distancing could there-
fore benefit moral action.
The results also showed a direct relationship between
cognitive empathy and normative adjustment. This could
suggest that understanding others’ emotions such as
sadness, anger or fear facilitates compliance with school
rules, perhaps because this ability facilitates a sense of
connection and group cooperation.63 In other words,
attitudes and behaviours such as respect for the others’
opinions, waiting in turn to speak, letting others work
and in general, engagement with social and normative
conventions benefitted from increased levels of cognitive
empathy. Cognitive empathy might benefit acceptance,
respect and solidarity, favoring an improvement in social
interactions and interpersonal relationships. Conse-
quently, adolescents who understand others’ emotions
and understand the purpose of school rules are more
likely to regulate their behaviour accordingly.64
Emotional contagion and emotional disengagement
showed a low but direct association with normative adjust-
ment. This suggests that although it may be necessary
to be involved to some degree in the others’ emotions
(for example, feeling anger, sadness or fear when others
experience these), it is also important to keep emotional
distance. This may be beneficial for providing space to
evaluate what behavioural responses are most appro-
priate, and at the same time it may allow some control
over one’s own emotional response. This affective space
could offer the opportunity to interpret social situations
more carefully when dealing with emotional experiences
that could be potentially overwhelming.
In summary, this study suggested that a Spanish version
of the BES structured into three factors measured
empathy in adolescents more adequately and fit more
coherently with what is known about emotional func-
tioning from a psychological and neuropsychological
point of view. In spite of the limitations that measuring a
psychological construct through self-reports entail—due
to the neuropsychological ability it implies—this research
presents some strong points: on the one hand, it offers on September 25, 2017 - Published by from
Herrera-LópezM, etal. BMJ Open 2017;7:e015347. doi:10.1136/bmjopen-2016-015347
Open Access
scientific evidence based on confirmatory, reliability,
validity and factorial invariance analyses which support
the suitability of measuring empathy from a three-factor
model, following the recent contributions from neuropsy-
chology, psychology and psychopathology. On the other
hand, it allows us to have a Spanish version of the BES,
which will foster its use in Spanish-speaking countries and
which will allow a cross-cultural comparison. Furthermore,
this work reaffirms the potential importance of strength-
ening these three components of empathy for improving
the quality of peer relationships in school.64 That is, social
adjustment appears to be related with the understanding
of others’ emotions, and to some extent, it seems to be
involved or invested in these. On the other hand, norma-
tive adjustment appears to be related to the understanding
of others’ emotions and to the ability to strike a balance
between being overwhelmed by the others’ emotional
experiences and being emotionally disengaged. This key
result illustrates the potential importance of emotional
regulation for both the emotional contagion and disen-
gagement components of empathy, as possible ways to
stimulate improved interpersonal relationships and the
establishment of moral reciprocity. Emotional regulation
and subsequent controls on contagion and disengage-
ment could restrict the emergence of uncritical and risky
attitudes towards the others’ emotions, which have been
found to be present among those involved in bullying and
cyberbullying.65 66
This study also showed that empathy contributed to
the development of a healthy school culture. It further
suggests that individuals suffering from cyberbullying
to understand each other’s feelings may be more able
to negotiate egocentric positions and achieve sufficient
emotional distance to make decisions that best fit the
group, in opposition to individual goals. Empathy also
promotes critical judgements that prevent individuals
from getting carried away by emotions such as anger or
sadness, and also benefits the emergence of more satis-
fied perhaps less conflicted relationships in the class-
room. Overall, it seems that better skills in understanding
others’ emotions foster interpersonal relationships,
resulting in the prosocial behaviour necessary for better
social life and school environment.64
Finally, having a better instrument with recognised
and proven prosocial properties to assess the dimensions
of empathy demonstrated to be related to optimal peer
interpersonal relationships should help to guide the
design and implementation of educational programmes.
These ought to be aimed at promoting the identification
of others’ emotions and the emotional regulation, which
appears to allow a certain affective distancing without
becoming fully emotionally disengaged.
The limitations of the study are related to social desir-
ability, the use of self-report questionnaires and the fact
that the sample was selected based on convenience.
All of these aspects could bias its results. This potential
response bias was mitigated as far as possible by providing
anonymity to the participants and by ensuring that they
were aware their responses would not be connected with
them. This should encourage honest responding. In addi-
tion, in the analysis of the psychometric properties of the
three-factor BES, low values in the average variance were
extracted for emotional contagion and cognitive empathy.
The adequate values of the other parameters and the fact
that this device has been validated with different partic-
ipants and cultures suppose sufficient criteria of validity
and reliability to support the adequacy of this scale for
measuring empathy. In future research, it would be advis-
able to carry out cross-cultural and prospective longitu-
dinal studies which would allow to consolidate the results
obtained here in different samples, as well as to investi-
gate whether empathy changes over time and whether
these changes are associated with changes in social or
normative adjustment.
Acknowledgements The authors acknowledge the invaluable participation of the
study subjects.
Contributors MHL conceived the study, in consultation with EMR, OGO and ROR,
who participated in its design, review and drafting of the manuscript. DJ authorized
the use of the BES scale and reviewed and supported the drafting and nal
structure of the paper. All authors read and approved the nal manuscript.
Funding This study was carried out within the framework of the following projects:
projects PSI2016-74871-R and PSI2015-64114-R funded by the Spanish National
I+D+i Plan and Project EDU2013-44627-P funded by the Spanish National I+D
Competing interests None declared.
Patient consent Obtained.
Ethics approval CE-UCO, Faculty of Education Sciences, Department of
Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.
Data sharing statement No additional data are available.
Open Access This is an Open Access article distributed in accordance with the
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permits others to distribute, remix, adapt, build upon this work non-commercially,
and license their derivative works on different terms, provided the original work is
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licenses/ by- nc/ 4. 0/
© Article author(s) (or their employer(s) unless otherwise stated in the text of the
article) 2017. All rights reserved. No commercial use is permitted unless otherwise
expressly granted.
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adolescents: a cross-sectional study
social and normative adjustment in Spanish
measure empathy and its relationship with
Suitability of a three-dimensional model to
Jolliffe and Eva M. Romera
Mauricio Herrera-López, Olga Gómez-Ortiz, Rosario Ortega-Ruiz, Darrick
doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2016-015347
2017 7: BMJ Open
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... On the other hand, eight articles (38.1%) did not meet these parameters. In addition, one article was considered ambiguous [74] because no explanation from the authors was given to ensure that the test they performed before administering the questionnaires was aimed at assessing the content of the instrument. ...
... However, two articles were considered ambiguous (9.52%). In Geng et al. [76], participants were asked for each item of the instrument to evaluate their understanding, and in Herrera-López et al. [74], the test was evaluated with 60 subjects prior to implementation with the rest of the sample. In both cases, the authors did not provide a justification to indicate that the objective was to evaluate how the participants responded to the items. ...
... All the studies presented reliability measures of internal consistency, mostly performed with the Cronbach's α coefficient. In 4 of the 21 articles (19.05%), the analysis with the McDonald's ω coefficient was also performed [17,23,24,74]. In one article's case [73], only the analysis with the McDonald's ω coefficient was performed. ...
Full-text available
Abstract: The Basic Empathy Scale (BES) has been internationally used to measure empathy. A systematic review including 74 articles that implement the instrument since its development in 2006 was carried out. Moreover, an evidence validity analysis and a reliability generalization meta-analysis were performed to examine if the scale presented the appropriate values to justify its application. Results from the systematic review showed that the use of the BES is increasing, although the research areas in which it is being implemented are currently being broadened. The validity analyses indicated that both the type of factor analysis and reliability are reported in validation studies much more than the consequences of testing are. Regarding the meta-analysis results, the mean of Cronbach’s a for cognitive empathy was 0.81 (95% CI: 0.77–0.85), with high levels of heterogeneity (I2 = 98.81%). Regarding affective empathy, the mean of Cronbach’s a was 0.81 (95% CI: 0.76–0.84), with high levels of heterogeneity. It was concluded that BES is appropriate to be used in general population groups, although not recommended for clinical diagnosis; and there is a moderate to high heterogeneity in the mean of Cronbach’s a. The practical implications of the results in mean estimation and heterogeneity are discussed.
... Hawk et al [115], 2013 IRI Dutch 501 ...
Background: Empathy has long been considered a multidimensional construct, encompassing cognitive, affective and behavioral domains. Deficits in empathic competences in early childhood contribute to psychopathology, and have been variably implicated in several clinical conditions, such as autism spectrum disorders (ASD) and conduct disorders. Aim: To identify and describe empirically validated questionnaires assessing empathy in children and adolescents and to provide a summary of related theoretical perspectives on empathy definitional issues. Methods: A systematic review of the literature was conducted. Three bibliographic databases were searched. A total of 47 studies were selected for final analysis and 16 distinct measures were identified and described. Results: Questionable to excellent levels of internal consistency were observed, while few studies assessed test-retest reliability. Although construct definitions only partially overlapped, affective and cognitive domains of empathy were the commonest internal factors that were often separately evaluated. New facets of the construct (i.e., somatic empathy and sympathy) and specific clinical populations (i.e., ASD) could be specifically addressed through more recent instruments. Conclusion: The combination of different assessment methods is recommended in order to foresee further improvements in this field and try to overcome the problem of limited convergence with more objective measures.
... However, it is generally accepted as a multidimensional psychological construct which allows for individuals to both recognise (cognitive) and respond (affective) to others' emotional states (Cuff et al., 2016). More recently, others have suggested an alternative three-dimensional measure of empathy with improved psychometric properties, constituting cognitive empathy, emotional contagion, and emotional disengagement (Herrera-López et al., 2017). Individual differences in empathic response are influenced by a combination of both state (contextual) and trait (dispositional) factors (Cuff et al., 2016). ...
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In recent decades, the relationship between weak empathy and the development of antisocial and offending behaviours has been well established. In the first review of its kind, this paper outlines the current implementation of empathy intervention programmes in a variety of disciplines. This paper will identify some key agents that are instrumental in empathy development and build a case to suggest that where such traditional sources of empathy development are inadequate, interventions are crucial to bridge the gap. To date, the few offender empathy interventions that have been implemented and assessed heed mixed results by crime type, sample type, gender, and empathy type. Novel, evidence-led recommendations will be made in relation to the timing, content, format, length, and location of future interventions, and the importance of the consideration of baseline empathy and individual differences will be outlined. Deficient empathy must be of central concern to criminal justice agencies and identified and addressed from infancy and throughout the life course. By using a combination of universal programmes with general populations and specific offender-targeted programmes, a holistic approach can be achieved.
... The empathic diagnoses should strongly relate to pedagogical actions, curricula modification, and the introduction of active teachinglearning processes, among many other aspects. All of these strategies need to be applied simultaneously and must function alongside and in accordance with empathic diagnoses (4,(35)(36)(37) , as various authors have long held (1,4,25) . ...
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Objective To evaluate the psychometric properties of the Jefferson Medical Empathy Scale, Spanish version (JSE-S), its factorial structure, reliability, and the presence of invariance between genders in the behavior of empathy levels among Chilean nursing students. Method Instrumental research design. The JSE-S was applied to 1,320 nursing students. A confirmatory factor analysis was used. An invariance study between genders was carried out. Descriptive statistics were estimated. Between genders, Student’s T distribution was applied alongside a homoscedasticity analysis. The level of significance was α ≤ 0.05. Results The confirmatory factor analysis determined the existence of three dimensions in the matrix. The statistical results of the invariance tests were significant, and allowed comparison between genders. Differences were found between mean empathy values, as well as in some of its dimensions between genders. Conclusion The factor structure of empathy data and its dimensions is in correspondence with the underlying three-dimensional model. There are differences in empathy levels and their dimensions between genders, with the exception of the compassionate care dimension, which was distributed similarly. Women were more empathetic than men.
... From situations like these, those in which nonmonetary goods are exchanged, perhaps it is clearer that the emotions involved in the negotiation process are not just those we experience ourselves: it is important to understand the point of view and the emotions experienced by the counterpart. Empathy is the basis of prosocial behaviour, it is a component of relational skills fundamental for the realisation of interactions that can be said to be respectful, advantageous, satisfying (Hoffman 2001;Tangney, Stuewig, and Mashek 2007;Herrera et al. 2017;Bracci et al. 2018). Literature shows that people who are more likely to experience empathy often tend to place the needs and profits of the other party ahead of their own and get excessively involved in the emotions of others (Koeszegi, Pesendorfer, and Stolz 2006;Galinsky et al. 2008). ...
The goal of the present study is to explore the role of empathic and emotional skills in virtual negotiation, and to try to verify their possible role in different contexts: monetary/non-monetary, in circumstances in which a counterparty is familiar or unknown, and with respect to polite or rude responses from the negotiating counterparty. To this end, 320 participants aged between 19 to 25 years old were involved in a simulated virtual negotiation. Participants were required to fill in a Basic Empathy Scale (BES) questionnaire, they were also asked to report the prevalent emotion they had felt during the interaction, and if they thought they were interacting with a real person. The results of this research confirm the tendency of participants to minimize losses. Although the capacity for empathy does not seem to have a role, the behavior of participants appears more cooperative when they have to deal with a familiar negotiation counterparty. Emotions appear to play a positive role when negotiating with, what is perceived to be, a real person. Practitioner Summary: We conducted this study as part of a Master’s Degree program which was specifically focused on human-computer interaction. Results show that negotiation was affected by emotions experienced during the experiment, and by the perception of the negotiating counterparty as a familiar person more so than by empathy.
... The need of the passive bystanders to morally disengage may be an escape route from the emotional distress towards the victim's suffering, what leads to inhibit eventually the bystander's prosocial behavior such as defending (Doramajian & Bukowski, 2015). Some studies about the three-dimensionality of empathy -cognitive empathy, emotional contagion and emotional disengagement-recognize the value of low emotional disengagement as an adaptive social mechanism (Herrera-López, Gómez-Ortiz, Ortega-Ruiz, Jolliffe, & Romera, 2017). However, the fear of embarrassing themselves in the presence of others, of being the next victims or of losing their social status within the group may lead them to show MD and inhibit their help (Mayeux & Cillessen, 2008). ...
Developmental psychology has paid special research attention to explain how certain moral-nature factors influence behavior. Most research on morality and bullying has focused on studying moral disengagement as a risk factor for peer aggression. However, neuroscience has revealed that morality is a complex phenomenon composed of several factors. Thus, it requires the usage of holistic explanatory models that study the complexity of the moral functioning. The purpose of this review is to explore —from an integrative perspective— the moral elements that influence the transgressive behavior that damages other people, and its relation to bullying, a clear example of unjustified and immoral aggressiveness. This article reviews the state-of-the-art of morality including moral sensitivity, reasoning, emotion, motivation and identity, and group norms, analyzing its protective role against bullying. The need for a comprehensive theoretical approach to morality understood as a complex construct is discussed, starting from the articulated analysis of all its dimensions. This work advances knowledge useful for the design of educational interventions aimed to prevent bullying, to stimulate the socially desirable and prosocial behavior, as well as to improve peer relationships.
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Moral disengagement and empathy have been linked to aggression in traditional bullying. A number of longitudinal studies have focused on how these variables predict aggressive behavior within the dynamics of bullying. However, no conclusive results have been produced as to whether aggressive behavior in bullying can predict lower levels of empathy, and to date, no studies have explored in depth the mediating role of moral disengagement strategies in this relationship, which is the aim of this study. A total of 1,810 students (51.0% girls; M age = 14.50; SD = 1.05) completed a survey in three waves at 6-month intervals. The results showed that aggressive behavior in bullying at Time 1 was inversely related to affective and cognitive empathy at Time 3. Minimization of responsibility, distortion of consequences and dehumanizing mediated in the aggressive behavior exhibited by the bullying aggressors and in cognitive empathy, while cognitive restructuring and the distortion of consequences mediated in affective empathy. We discuss the impact on moral and emotional sensitivity of the continued aggression occurring in the interpersonal dynamics of bullying, as well as the relationship between certain strategies of moral disengagement and the different types of empathy. We also comment on the need to design intervention programs to address the lowering of moral criteria and empathy in young people and adolescents involved in traditional bullying.
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The present study investigates whether empathy shapes the criminogenic effect of low self-control in late adulthood. Based on the assumption that the capacity to understand and share the thoughts and emotions of other people moderates the significance of the capability to consider the distant consequences of behaviour on oneself, we posit that poor self-control is less consequential among senior citizens of high empathy. The results of a postal survey of 3,000 randomly selected older adults from Germany indicate that both low trait self-control and weak trait empathy increase offending in advanced age. Furthermore, the findings provide evidence of an interaction according to which the relationship between the risk-taking component of the self-control trait and criminal activity is stronger for older adults characterised by low empathy. Impulsivity, on the other hand, seems to mediate the association of empathy and offending in late life.
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The Basic Empathy Scale is widely used to measure cognitive and affective empathy in different age groups. Although empathy is studied throughout the world, research on this important psychological construct in Eastern European populations needs to be increased. In order to accomplish this, validated instruments to measure empathy are needed in this geographic area. This study was conducted to analyze the psychometric properties of the Basic Empathy Scale in Poland. The sample included 1052 children and adolescents aged 9 to 16, enrolled in Primary and Middle schools. This was a cross-sectional study conducted with a survey that was filled in by the participants during their regular classroom hours. Confirmatory Factor Analyses were conducted, together with concurrent validity analyses and comparisons between younger and older participants, and between females and males were undertaken. A final 12-item version of the Basic Empathy Scale was obtained with affective empathy and cognitive empathy factors. The Polish version of the scale showed good psychometric properties. Females scored higher on affective, cognitive and total empathy than males. Younger male participants scored higher on affective, cognitive and total empathy than older male participants. This validated measure of empathy in Polish children and adolescents can be used to study the relation between empathy and both antisocial and prosocial behaviors. In addition, this measure will allow for Poland to be included in cross-country comparisons of empathy and also used to evaluate programs focused on enhancing empathy in Poland.
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The current study investigated whether manipulations of affective and cognitive empathy have differential effects on observed behavior and self-reported outcomes in adolescent-mother conflict discussions. We further examined how these situational empathy inductions interact with preexisting empathic dispositions. To promote ecological validity, we conducted home visits to study conflict discussions about real disagreements in adolescent-mother relationships. We explored the roles of sex, age, and maternal support and power as covariates and moderators. Results indicated that the affective empathy manipulation had no significant effects on behavior, although a trend in the hypothesized direction suggested that affective empathy might promote active problem solving. The cognitive empathy manipulation led to lower conflict escalation and promoted other-oriented listening for adolescents low in dispositional cognitive empathy. State-trait interactions indicated that the empathy manipulations had significant effects on self-reported outcomes for adolescents lower in dispositional empathic concern. For these adolescents, both manipulations promoted outcome satisfaction, but only the cognitive manipulation promoted perceived fairness. This suggests that cognitive empathy, in particular, allows adolescents to distance themselves from the emotional heat of a conflict and listen to mothers' point of view, leading to outcomes perceived as both satisfying and fair. These findings are relevant for interventions and clinicians because they demonstrate unique effects of promoting affective versus cognitive empathy. Because even these minimal manipulations promoted significant effects on observed behavior and self-reported outcomes, particularly for low-empathy adolescents, stronger structural interventions are likely to have marked benefits.
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The aims of this paper were twofold: to validate the Adolescent Multidimensional Social Competence Questionnaire (AMSC-Q) and to examine the social competence of those involved in bullying. The representative sample was composed of four thousand and forty seven (4047) Andalusian secondary school students (48.2% girls). Two measures were used: the AMSC-Q and the European Bullying Intervention Project Questionnaire (EBIPQ). The AMSC-Q measure yielding a five-factor structure (prosocial behaviour, social adjustment, normative adjustment, cognitive reappraisal and social efficacy) and revealed adequate reliability and validity. Victims presented greater prosocial behaviour and normative adjustment but low social adjustment and social efficacy. Bullies and bully victims demonstrated worse normative adjustment and less developed cognitive reappraisal but similar social adjustment and social efficacy. The social competence characteristics of those involved and non involved in bullying are discussed.
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Background: Empathy is a personality feature that can play a major role in predicting the emotional and social functioning of adolescents (Jolliffe & Farrington, 2006). Recent research confirms the existence of two fundamental dimensions embedded within this construct, Affective Empathy (experiencing a congruent emotional response with another person) and Cognitive Empathy (understanding rationally the emotions of another person). The Basic Empathy Scale (Jolliffe & Farrington, 2006) is an up-to-date instrument which has been reported to satisfactorily measure these two dimensions. Method: We used a sample of 752 adolescents (339 males, 413 females) aged 14-25 who completed the Spanish adaptation of BES. Results: Confirmatory factor analysis showed that the Spanish adaptation of the scale had the same bi-factorial structure as the original (CFI = .93). This adaptation also showed both satisfactory reliability (Cronbach’s alpha coefficient > .92) and discriminant and convergent validity with regard to measurements of Narcissism, Psychoticism and Agreeableness. Females were found to have higher scores than males both in Affective and Cognitive Empathy. Both subscales show a direct significant correlation with age. Conclusions: The evidence suggested that this revised scale possessed good psychometric properties for evaluating empathy in Spanish young people.
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Cognitive empathy (the ability to infer another person's thoughts and feelings) and emotional empathy (the ability to emotionally resonate with another person's feelings) have been associated with social adjustment. Traditionally, these skills are assessed with self-report measures. However, these may not adequately reflect people's actual empathic abilities. There is only little and inconsistent empirical evidence on associations between performance-based empathy and positive social adjustment. In the study presented here, we gathered further evidence for such an association. Using a realistic interaction task in which unfamiliar women were paired into dyads and talked about positive and negative events in their lives, we assessed empathic accuracy (an indicator of cognitive empathy) and emotional congruence (an indicator of emotional empathy). Additionally, we obtained 2 indicators of social adjustment: participants' self-rated satisfaction regarding the communication with their partner in the interaction task, and their self-rated satisfaction with social relationships in general. We furthermore explored the role of potential moderators, which may help to explain discrepant past findings. To test for contextual and interindividual differences, we distinguished between positive and negative emotional valence in the empathy task and investigated 2 adult age groups (102 younger women: 20-31 years; 106 older: 69-80 years). For almost all analyses, only empathic skills for positive (not for negative) affect were predictive of social adjustment, and the associations were comparable for younger and older women. These results underline the role of valence in associations between empathic skills and social adjustment across the life span. (PsycINFO Database Record
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Previous research with adolescents has reported a negative relationship between media violence and empathy. There are, however, two important conceptual issues in this earlier literature that deserve further research attention. First, studies often treat empathy as a one-dimensional construct while it consists of both an affective and cognitive component. Second, while aiming to measure empathy, several studies have measured sympathy instead. Driven by these concerns, this study was designed to investigate the longitudinal relationship between media violence, affective empathy, cognitive empathy, and sympathy. Using data from a two-wave panel study with 943 adolescents (10–14 years old), a cross-lagged model tested whether media violence exposure negatively influences empathy and sympathy (desensitization) or whether empathy and sympathy negatively influence media violence exposure (selection). Results were in line with desensitization. However, rather than showing that media violence leads to a decrease in empathy (which previous studies have shown), results indicate a decrease in sympathy instead. These findings provide clarification to existing work as well as offer methodological and practical implications.
Empathy has long been a topic of interest to psychologists, but it has been studied in a sometimes bewildering number of ways. In this volume, Mark Davis offers a thorough, evenhanded review of contemporary empathy research, especially work that has been carried out by social and personality psychologists.Davis' approach is explicitly multidimensional. He draws careful distinctions between situational and dispositional “antecedents” of empathy, cognitive and noncognitive “internal processes,” affective and nonaffective “intrapersonal outcomes,” and the “interpersonal behavioral outcomes” that follow. Davis presents a novel organizational model to help classify and interpret previous findings. This book will be of value in advanced undergraduate and graduate courses on altruism, helping, nad moral development.
This developmental neuroscience study examined the electrophysiological responses (EEG and ERPs) associated with perspective taking and empathic concern in preschool children, as well as their relation to parental empathy dispositions and children's own prosocial behavior. Consistent with a body of previous studies using stimuli depicting somatic pain in both children and adults, larger early (~200 ms) ERPs were identified when perceiving painful versus neutral stimuli. In the slow wave window (~800 ms), a significant interaction of empathy condition and stimulus type was driven by a greater difference between painful and neutral images in the empathic concern condition. Across early development, children exhibited enhanced N2 to pain when engaging in empathic concern. Greater pain-elicited N2 responses in the cognitive empathy condition also related to parent dispositional empathy. Children's own prosocial behavior was predicted by several individual differences in neural function, including larger early LPP responses during cognitive empathy and greater differentiation in late LPP and slow wave responses to empathic concern versus affective perspective taking. Left frontal activation (greater alpha suppression) while engaging in affective perspective taking was also related to higher levels of parent cognitive empathy. Together, this multilevel analysis demonstrates the important distinction between facets of empathy in children; the value of examining neurobehavioral processes in development. It provides provoking links between children's neural functioning and parental dispositions in early development.
Since its inception, the concept of ?secondary psychopathy? has been contrasted with primary psychopathy on the grounds of neuroticism, affect instability, and anxiety. Nonetheless, while the etiology of primary psychopathy, and its various possible expressions, has received ample attention, secondary psychopathy has been largely neglected and only discussed in cluster-analytic studies. This paper seeks to fill that caveat by delineating the continuum on which secondary psychopathic individuals may be set apart and exploring potential sources of within group homogeneity and heterogeneity. While secondary psychopathic individuals share a number of etiological antecedents (attachment problems, childhood maltreatment, neurobiological dysfunctions) they can vary on different temperamental predispositions and specific types of maltreatment experienced in childhood (neglect/abuse vs. trauma/abuse, low vs. high prefrontal catecholaminergic activity), thus creating the heterogeneity observed in this group. Secondary psychopathic individuals may be situated on a continuum that spans from attentional hyposensitivity and cognitive distractibility on the far left side, associated with deficient prefrontal catecholamine activity and childhood neglect/abuse, ultimately culminating in more detached expressions of secondary psychopathy (callousness, hedonism, and low worrying), to attentional hypersensitivity and cognitive rigidity on the far right side, associated with non-optimally high levels of catecholamine activity and childhood relational trauma/abuse leading to more unstable expressions of secondary psychopathy (hostility, neuroticism, instability, and worrying).
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.