Measuring empathy in the 21st century: Development of an empathy index rooted in social cognitive neuroscience and social justice

Karen E. Gerdes, Cynthia Lietz, Elizabeth Segal

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

53 Scopus citations


Instruments currently being used to measure empathy do not reflect the recent neuroscientific scholarship on mirror neurons and the importance of self-awareness and emotion regulation in experiencing the fullest extent of empathy. The authors describe a theoretical framework for the initial development and pilot application of an empathy self-report instrument, the Empathy Assessment Index (EAI). The EAI is based on a comprehensive definition of empathy that is rooted in social cognitive neuroscience, developmental psychology, and social work's commitment to social justice. The authors present reliability, concurrent validity, and data reduction and refinement results from the first administration of the index. Four of the five EAI subscales had excellent internal consistency and test-retest reliability. Three subscales were tested for concurrent validity. The exploratory factor analysis identified six factors that explained over 43% of the variance.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)83-93
Number of pages11
JournalSocial work research
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 2011



  • Affective response
  • Emotion regulation
  • Empathic attitudes
  • Empathy
  • Self-Awareness

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science

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