Center for Building a Culture of Empathy

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Join the International Conference on: How Might We Build a Culture of Empathy and Compassion?


Culture of Empathy Builder:  Mark Davis

Pending - in development




Professor Psychology, Eckerd College
Multidimensional approach to empathy
Studying empathy, helping behavior, and interpersonal conflict.

Empathy: A Social Psychological Approach
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.




Interpersonal Reactivity Index

"The Interpersonal Reactivity Index (Davis, 1980, 1983) is a measure of dispositional empathy that takes as its starting point the notion that empathy consists of a set of separate but related constructs. The instrument contains four seven-item subscales, each tapping a separate facet of empathy.

The perspective taking (PT) scale measures the reported tendency to spontaneously adopt the psychological point of view of others in everyday life
 ("I sometimes try to understand my friends better by imagining how things look from their perspective"). 

The empathic concern (EC) scale assesses the tendency to experience feelings of sympathy and compassion for unfortunate others
("I often have tender, concerned feelings for people less fortunate than me").


The personal distress (PD) scale taps the tendency to experience distress and discomfort in response to extreme distress in others
("Being in a tense emotional situation scares me").


The fantasy (FS) scale measures the tendency to imaginatively transpose oneself into fictional situations
("When I am reading an interesting story or novel, I imagine how I would feel if the events in the story were happening to me")."

"Defines empathy as the “reactions of one individual to the observed experiences of another (Davis, 1983)..
The following statements inquire about your thoughts and feelings in a variety of situations. For each item, indicate how well it describes you by choosing the appropriate letter on the scale at the top of the page: A, B, C, D, or E. W"

1980 - A Multidimensional Approach to Individual  Differences in Empathy
Abstract " The development of a multidimensional individual difference measure of empathy is described. The final version of the instrument consists of four seven-item subscales, each of which taps a separate aspect of the global concept "empathy."

  • One scale, the perspective-taking scale, contains items which assess spontaneous attempts to adopt the perspectives of other people and see things from their point of view.

  • Items on the fantasy scale measure the tendency to identify with characters in movies, novels, plays and other fictional situations.

  •  The other two subscales explicitly tap respondents' chronic emotional reactions to the negative experiences of others.

    •  The empathic concern scale inquires about respondents' feelings of warmth, compassion, and concern for others, while

    •  the personal distress scale measures the personal feelings of anxiety and discomfort that result from observing another's negative experience. ...

  • It is concluded that the new measure has considerable potential for investigations of the multidimensional nature of empathy."