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(Duan + 1996)

The current state of empathy research

  • Duan, CM (Duan, CM); 
  • Hill, CE (Hill, CE)
Publication: JOURNAL OF COUNSELING PSYCHOLOGY Volume: 43, Issue: 3, Pages: 261-274
DOI: 10.1037/0022-0167.43.3.261
Published: JUL 1996

  • has a historical view of  of the concept

The literature on empathy, primarily from counseling and psychotherapy and secondarily from social and developmental psychology, is reviewed. Obstacles that may account for theoretical confusions and empirical difficulties in studying empathy are highlighted. The decrease in empathy research in recent years appears attributable to the lack of clear focus and effective research tools as well as the shift in interest from empathy to other concepts such as the working alliance. It is argued that there is a need to return to studying empathy.

 Researchers should distinguish between dispositional and experiential empathy and between intellectual empathy and empathic emotions and indicate whether they are examining therapist or client experience of empathy. Suggestions for future research are offered.

History and Definitions of Empathy
  • The Construct of Empathy
  • The Nature of Empathy
Empirical Research 
  • Measurement of Empathy
  • Relationships Between Intellectual Empathy and Empathic Emotions
  • Role of Empathy in Psychotherapy
  • Predictors of Therapeutic Empathy
  • Summary and Speculations About the Decrease in Empathy Research
  •  Future Research 

Problem with Definitions
"Although the volume of the research on empathy is sizable, the product appears weak. The research is characterized by conflicting constructs, problems with measurement, and lack of systematic replications of various promising research evidence.   In addition, only limited content areas have been covered, and many important factors that may affect empathy have not been examined."  (DUAN + 1996)