Open access The development and validation of the Empathy Components Questionnaire (ECQ)

Laurie Batchelder, Mark Brosnan, Chris Ashwin (2017)

PLoS ONE 12 1

10.1371/journal.pone.0169185

https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0169185

Available online: 11 January 2017

Abstract
Key research suggests that empathy is a multidimensional construct comprising of both cognitive and affective components. More recent theories and research suggest even further factors within these components of empathy, including the ability to empathize with others versus the drive towards empathizing with others. While numerous self-report measures have been developed to examine empathy, none of them currently index all of these wider components together. The aim of the present research was to develop and validate the Empathy Components Questionnaire (ECQ) to measure cognitive and affective components, as well as ability and drive components within each. Study one utilized items measuring cognitive and affective empathy taken from various established questionnaires to create an initial version of the ECQ. Principal component analysis (PCA) was used to examine the underlying components of empathy within the ECQ in a sample of 101 typical adults. Results revealed a five-component model consisting of cognitive ability, cognitive drive, affective ability, affective drive, and a fifth factor assessing affective reactivity. This five-component structure was then validated and confirmed using confirmatory factor analysis (CFA) in an independent sample of 211 typical adults. Results also showed that females scored higher than males overall on the ECQ, and on specific components, which is consistent with previous findings of a female advantage on self-reported empathy. Findings also showed certain components predicted scores on an independent measure of social behavior, which provided good convergent validity of the ECQ. Together, these findings validate the newly developed ECQ as a multidimensional measure of empathy more in-line with current theories of empathy. The ECQ provides a useful new tool for quick and easy measurement of empathy and its components for research with both healthy and clinical populations.