Journal Article

Conceptualising and Measuring Empathy

Karen E. Gerdes, Elizabeth A. Segal and Cynthia A. Lietz

in The British Journal of Social Work

Published on behalf of British Association of Social Workers

Volume 40, issue 7, pages 2326-2343
Published in print October 2010 | ISSN: 0045-3102
Published online March 2010 | e-ISSN: 1468-263X | DOI:
Conceptualising and Measuring Empathy

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The purpose of this article is to briefly review the most influential existing literature on conceptualizing and measuring empathy. In addition, we consider a second, highly salient body of literature emerging from the relatively new field of social cognitive neuroscience, which uses brain imaging to help identify the physiological components of emotional and cognitive processes. We believe that social cognitive neuroscience can assist social work in clarifying concrete, consistent ways of defining and measuring empathy as a neurological phenomenon. Finally, we assess some of the most recent social work-related empirical intervention-based research on empathy. Combining all these research traditions leads to a compelling possibility: a unified, consistent, and robust way to define and measure the empathic responses that help form the foundation of just and beneficent social structures.

Keywords: Empathy; affect sharing; black and ethnic minority; perspective taking; measurement

Journal Article.  6388 words. 

Subjects: Social Work

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