William Ickes

Notes to Siort

Empathic Accuracy

Ickes, 1993; William Ickes

there is a definite conceptual demarcation between the current work on empathic accuracy and the earlier work on accurate empathy by Rogers

4. The fourth area, which is only now emerging as a field of study,

focuses on perceivers' empathic accuracy—i.e., their ability to accurately infer

the specific content of another person's thoughts and feelings (e.g., Ickes, Stinson, Bissonnette, & Garcia, 1990; Marangoni,

Garcia, & Ickes, 1993; Simpson, Ickes, & Blackstone, 1993; Stinson & Ickes, 1992

the fourth, most recent area concerns judgments about the most transient of dispositions—thoughts and feelings

Measuring Empathic Accuracy

  • [Approach 1 Rogers mentioned a study where external professionals rated a listener on the quality of their reflection.]

  • [Approach 2 Ickes has a measurement for dyads. I do not understand how it really works.]

As Marangoni (1989) has noted, attempts to measure empathic accuracy

in psychotherapy research have generally been guided by the Rogerian

view that "it [empathy] involves being sensitive, moment-to-moment,

to the changing felt meanings which flow in this other person . . ."

(Rogers, 1975, p. 4, italics added).

The widespread acceptance of the

Rogerian view is evidenced in Truax and Carkhuff's (1967) assertion

that "[v]irtually all theories of psychotherapy emphasize that for the

therapist to be helpful he must be accurately empathic, be 'with' the

client, be understanding, or grasp the patient's meaning" (p. 25).

The Rogerian view implies that an appropriate procedure for measuring empathic accuracy should meet at least three criteria (Maran- goni, 1989).

  • First, it should involve a temporally extended, repeated- measures assessment of the perceiver's empathic accuracy—one that can be used to track the development of empathy as an ongoing process.

  • Second, it should allow the perceiver to generate his or her own inferences about the specific content of the target person's thoughts and feelings, rather than requiring the perceiver to choose from a set of prefabricated response options provided by the experimenter.

  • Third, empathic accuracy should be operationally defined by the degree to which the perceiver's inference matches—i.e., is congruent with—the target person's actual thought or feeling

Closer in its conception to the Rogerian view of accurate empathy is

the Affective Sensitivity Scale developed by Kagan and his colleagues

(Campbell, Kagan, & Krathwohl, 1971; Danish & Kagan,1971; Kagan,1972, 1977a, 1977b).

Rogerian view (operationally defining empathic

accuracy by the degree to which the perceiver's inference matches the

target person's actual feeling)

Empathic inference is the "everyday mind reading" that people do whenever they attempt to infer other people's thoughts and feelings. Empathic accuracy is the extent to which such mind reading attempts are successful (Ickes, 1993, 1997).

The fourth and most recent area focuses on perceivers' empathic accuracy-that is, their ability to accurately infer the specific content of another person's covert thoughts and feelings (e.g., Ickes, Stinson, Bissonnette, & Garcia, 1990; Levenson & Ruef, 1992; Marangoni, Garcia, Ickes, & Teng, 1995; Simpson, Ickes, & Blackstone, 1995; Stinson & Ickes, 1992).

Carl Rogers called attention to the importance of accurate empathy in the therapist-client relationship as early as 1957.

His work suggested that an ideal measure of empathic accuracy would be one that

(a) could be used to track the accuracy of the therapist's inferences over the course of the client-therapist interaction, and

(b) would be objective in defining accuracy in terms of the degree to which the

perceiver's inferences matched the client's actual reported thoughts and feelings.

During the next 4 decades, many attempts to develop such a measure

were made by researchers in areas such as clinical and counseling psychology,

communication studies, marriage and family studies, psychiatry, and personality and social psychology.

Accuracy is objectively defined in terms of the degree to which the perceiver's inference

matches the target's reported subjective experience, and the accuracy scores for

individual inferences can be aggregated across time or across

targets to assess changes across time or to create a single, cross-target index.

Ickes measurements

The first is the unstructured dyadic interaction paradigm, in which dyad members attempt to

infer each other's thoughts and feelings from a videotape of their spontaneous

interaction during a brief period in which the experimenter left them alone together.

(two people sit together and talk. They are being recorded. Afterwards they review the

video and try to infer the thoughts and feelings of the other person.]

Exactly 6 min later, at the end of the observation period, the experimenter returns to the observation room and the videotaping is terminated

the participants are asked to view the tape of the interaction in which they have just participated and provide written records of

(a) their own thoughts and feelings during the interaction and

(b) their inferences about the thoughts and feelings recorded by their interaction partner.

The second is the standard stimulus paradigm, in which individual participants each

view the same standard set of videotaped interactions and attempt to infer the

thoughts and feelings of the same set of target persons