Motivation and Emotion

, Volume 14, Issue 2, pp 131–149 | Cite as

Empathy: Conceptualization, measurement, and relation to prosocial behavior

  • Nancy Eisenberg
  • Richard A. Fabes


Empathy, sympathy, and related vicarious emotional responses are important concepts in developmental, social, and clinical psychology. The purpose of this paper is to examine conceptual and methodological issues concerning the assessment of vicarious emotional responding and to present data from a series of multimethod studies on the assessment of empathy-related reactions and their association with prosocial behavior. The findings presented are consistent with several conclusions: (a) In some contexts, physiological, facial, and self-report indexes can be useful markers of vicarious emotional responses, (b) other-oriented sympathetic responding is positively related to prosocial behavior (particularly altruism) whereas personal distress reactions sometimes are associated with low levels of helping, and (c) physiological arousal is higher for personal distress than sympathetic reactions.


Social Psychology Emotional Response Prosocial Behavior Methodological Issue Important Concept 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 1990

Authors and Affiliations

  • Nancy Eisenberg
    • 1
  • Richard A. Fabes
    • 1
  1. 1.PsychologyArizona State UniversityTempe

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