Measurement of Empathy in the General Population
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Some of the instruments that have been developed to measure empathy in children and adults are briefly described in this chapter. The three that have been used most often in medical education and health care research are Hogan’s Empathy Scale,Mehrabian and Epstein’s Emotional Empathy Scale, and Davis’s Interpersonal Reactivity Index. Although these instruments are useful for some applications in the general population, their relevance in the context of patient care is limited for two reasons. First, as the content of the items in the three instruments implies, none is framed in the context of physician–patient (clinician–client) relationships. Thus, the validity of their use in that context is questionable. Second, the three instruments were not developed specifically to address the cognitively defined concept of empathy, a conceptualization that is more desirable in the context of patient care. Researchers have raised concerns about the validity of instruments that attempt to measure empathy. The biotechnological advancements in functional brain imaging and the recent discovery of the mirror neuron system have opened up a new window for measuring empathy that is extremely promising. In an era of changes in the health care system that interfere with the physician–patient relationship, a psychometrically sound instrument for measuring empathy and studying its antecedents, development, and outcomes is in high demand.
KeywordsTypical Item Empathic Concern Mirror Neuron System Personal Distress Cognitive Empathy
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