Assessing physician empathy using the Interpersonal Reactivity Index: A measurement model and cross-sectional analysis

P. R. Yarnold*, F. B. Bryant, S. D. Nightingale, G. J. Martin

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations

Abstract

We sought to improve measurement of the constructs of sympathy and empathy using samples of 114 physicians and 95 college undergraduates. Separately by group, a structural model was developed for the Interpersonal Reactivity Index (IRI) - putatively a four-factor questionnaire measure of sympathy and empathy. A five-factor model emerged for both physicians and undergraduates, that explained 82% and 76% of the common variance, respectively. Four factors (fantasy, perspective-taking, empathic concern, and personal distress) suggested in prior research were identified. A fifth factor - 'involvement' - ranged from detachment to absorption. All five sub-scales had acceptable central tendency, dispersion, and reliability characteristics for both samples. Cross-sectional analyses revealed that physicians are less involved and distressed than undergraduates. Correlational analyses predicting androgyny scores using the IRI subscales revealed good convergent and discriminant validity. These data suggest that the IRI may be used with physicians and undergraduates as a more refined measure of the constructs of sympathy and empathy than has been possible previously.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)207-221
Number of pages15
JournalPsychology, Health and Medicine
Volume1
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Jun 1996

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Applied Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health

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