The Relationship between Empathy Subcomponents, Emotional Intelligence, Machiavellianism and Emotional Perception
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Empathy is a multidimensional construct consisting of two main subcomponents, cognitive empathy (the intellectual/imaginative apprehension of another’s mental state) and affective empathy (an emotional response to the affective state of another). To critically examine the relationships between empathy subcomponents and other constructs, participants (N = 186) completed two empathy measures (EQ and IRI), and a measure of trait emotional intelligence (TEIQue-SF), Machiavellianism (MACH-IV) and emotional perception (the Eyes Test). We found that both cognitive and affective empathy were positively correlated with EI and emotional perception, and that both components were negatively correlated with Mach. However, the correlation analyses involving the IRI fantasy scale and the IRI personal distress scale with the other constructs was rather inconclusive and brings into question whether these subscales are useful measures of empathy. Closer examination of the results showed that the total empathy score on the EQ and on the IRI predicted performance on the Eyes Test but individually only the subscale of IRI empathic concern was a significant predictor with EQ cognitive empathy and EQ social skills both approaching significance. A factor analysis was conducted for both empathy measures to investigate the low internal reliabilities of these scales and their subscales. The analyses revealed very different factor loadings to what has been found in previous research. It is concluded that the factor structure of the EQ needs to be revised, as does that of the IRI but to a lesser extent. The findings of this study emphasise that empathy and its subcomponents need to be firmly conceptualised and reliably measured for a greater understanding of their relationships with other constructs to be established.