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Empathic accuracy is a term in psychology that refers to how accurately one person (usually designated the perceiver) can infer the thoughts and feelings of another person (usually designated the target). It was first introduced in conjunction with a new research method by psychologists William Ickes and William Tooke in 1988.[1] It is similar to the term accurate empathy, which psychologist Carl Rogers had previously introduced in 1957.[2] Empathic accuracy is an important aspect of what William Ickes has called "everyday mind reading."[3]

Measurement Edit

Empathic accuracy became an active topic of psychological research beginning in the 1990s. The impetus for its study was the development by William Ickes and his colleagues[4] of a method to measure the accuracy of a perceiver's inferences about the content of a target person's reported thoughts and feelings. In this method, the perceiver is asked to view a videotaped interaction that was previously recorded. The videotape is paused for the perceiver at each of the points at which a target person on the videotape had reported having a specific thought or feeling, and the perceiver's task to write down the inferred content of each thought or feeling. Because the researchers have a list of the actual thoughts and feelings that the target person reported at the various "stop points," they can compare the content of each inferred thought or feeling with the actual thought or feeling and assess the level of the perceiver's empathic accuracy.

Research Edit

Over the past two decades, dozens of studies of empathic accuracy have been reported. These studies address a wide range of topics that include the following:

  • the upper limit of empathic accuracy[5]
  • the empathic accuracy of professional therapists[6]
  • whether women are more empathically accurate than men[7]
  • whether friends are more empathically accurate than strangers[8][9]
  • whether empathic accuracy is influenced by motivational factors[10]
  • what information channels contribute the most to empathic accuracy[11]
  • what areas of brain function are associated with empathic accuracy
  • the role of empathic inaccuracy in marital discord and spousal abuse[12][13][14]
  • the role of empathic accuracy in autism and Borderline Personality Disorder[15][16]
  • the role of empathic accuracy in relationship satisfaction and social support[17]
  • the role of empathic accuracy in the peer relations and adjustment of young adolescents[18]

An early summary of the research on empathic accuracy can be found in an edited volume titled Empathic Accuracy (1997).[19] A more recent summary is available in a single-author book titled Everyday Mind Reading: Understanding What Other People Think and Feel (2009).[20]

References Edit

  1. Ickes, W., & Tooke, W. (1988). The observational method: Studying the interactions of minds and bodies. In S. Duck, D.F. Hay, S.E. Hobfoll, W. Ickes, & B. Montgomery (Eds.), Handbook of personal relationships: Theory, research, and interventions (pp. 79-97). Chichester: Wiley.
  2. Rogers, C. R. (1957). The necessary and sufficient conditions of therapeutic personality change. Journal of Consulting Psychology, 21, 95–103.
  3. Ickes, W. (2003). Everyday mind reading: Understanding what other people think and feel. Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books.
  4. Ickes, W., Bissonnette, V., Garcia, S., & Stinson, L. (1990). Implementing and using the dyadic interaction paradigm. In C. Hendrick & M. Clark (Eds.), Review of Personality and Social Psychology: Volume 11, Research Methods in Personality and Social Psychology, (pp. 16-44). Newbury Park, CA.: Sage.
  5. Ickes, W. (2003). Everyday mind reading: Understanding what other people think and feel. Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books.
  6. Barone, D. F., Hutchings, P. S., Kimmel, H. J., Traub, H. L., Cooper, J. T., & Marshall, C. M. (2005). Increasing empathic accuracy through practice and feedback in a clinical interviewing course. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, 24, 156–171.
  7. Ickes, W., Gesn, P.R., & Graham, T. (2000). Gender differences in empathic accuracy: Differential ability or differential motivation? Personal Relationships, 7, 95-109.
  8. 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.
  9. Colvin, C.R., Vogt, D.S., & Ickes, W. (1997). Why do friends understand each other better than strangers do? In W. Ickes (Ed.), Empathic accuracy (pp. 169-193). New York: Guilford Press.
  10. 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.
  11. Gesn, P.R., & Ickes, W. (1999). The development of meaning contexts for empathic accuracy: Channel and sequence effects. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 77, 746-761.
  12. Schweinle, W.E., Ickes, W., & Bernstein, I.H. (2002). Empathic inaccuracy in husband to wife aggression: The overattribution bias. Personal Relationships, 9, 141-159.
  13. Schweinle, W., & Ickes, W. (2007). The role of men’s critical/rejecting overattribution bias, affect, and attentional disengagement in marital aggression. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, 26, 173-198.
  14. Clements, K., Holtzworth-Munroe, A., Schweinle, W., & Ickes, W. (2007). Empathic accuracy of intimate partners in violent versus nonviolent relationships. Personal Relationships, 14, 369-388.
  15. Ickes, W. (2003). Everyday mind reading: Understanding what other people think and feel. Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books.
  16. Flury, J., Ickes, W., & Schweinle, W. (2008). The borderline empathy effect: Do high BPD individuals have greater empathic ability? Or are they just more difficult to “read”? Journal of Research in Personality, 42, 312-332.
  17. Verhofstadt, L.L., Buysse, A., Ickes, W., Davis, M., & Devoldre, I. (2008). Support provision in marriage: The role of emotional linkage and empathic accuracy. Emotion, 8, 792-802.
  18. Gleason, K.A., Jensen-Campbell, L.A., & Ickes, W. (2009). The role of empathic accuracy in adolescents’ peer relations and adjustment. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 35, 997-1011.
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