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(van Langen + 2014)

M.A.M. van Langen, 
I.B. Wissink, 
E.S. van Vugt,
T. Van der Stouwe,
G.J.J.M. Stams

van Langen, M.A.M., Wissink, I.B., van Vugt, E.S., Van
der Stouwe, T. & Stams, G.J.J.M., The Relation between Empathy and Offending: A
Meta-Analysis, Aggression and Violent Behavior (2014), doi: 10.1016/j.avb.2014.02.003

A meta-analysis of k = 38 studies (60 independent effect sizes), including 6631 participants, was conducted to investigate whether differences in cognitive and affective  empathy exist between offenders and non-offenders. Cognitive empathy was more strongly 
associated with offending (d=.43) than affective empathy (d=.19). Moderator analyses revealed that various study and participant characteristics (i.e., year of publication, impact factor, age and sex of the participant, assessment instrument) influenced the strength and direction of the association between cognitive empathy and offending. 

Type of assessment instrument, the number of variables on which the offender and comparison group were matched, age and sex of the participants influenced the strength of the association between affective empathy and offending.



In the past few decades, empathy has been defined in many different ways. Some have
regarded empathy in cognitive terms (e.g., Hogan, 1969), whereas others have defined 
empathy in more affective or emotional terms (e.g., Hoffman, 1984; Mehrabian & Epstein, 
1972). Despite the ongoing debate about the definition of empathy, a widely agreed-upon 
definition of empathy has been provided by Cohen and Strayer (1996), that is, the ability to 
understand and share another`s emotional state and context (see Geng, Xia, & Qin, 2012; 
Jolliffe & Farrington, 2004). 

According to this definition, empathy is a multidimensional 
construct comprising both a cognitive and affective component (e.g. Davis, 1983; Marshall & 
Maric, 1996). Cognitive empathy is considered the ability to understand another`s emotions 
and feelings, while affective empathy is the ability to share another`s emotional state, and to 
experience feelings of the other person. Singer (2006) states that the cognitive and affective
component of empathy constitute different abilities that rely on different non-overlapping
neuro-cognitive circuits. Additionally, brain regions relevant to cognitive empathy are thought
to develop later than brain regions relevant to more affective aspects of empathy (Singer,

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