Development and validation of the affective and cognitive measure of empathy (ACME)

David Vachon, Purdue University


Low empathy is a criterion for most externalizing disorders, and empathy training is a regular component of treatment for aggressive people, from school bullies to sex offenders. However, recent meta-analytic evidence suggests that current measures of empathy only predict 1% of the variance in aggressive behavior. Accordingly, a new self-report assessment of empathy was developed to more fully represent the empathy construct and predict important outcomes--particularly aggressive behavior and externalizing psychopathology. Across 3 independent undergraduate samples (N = 210-803), the 45-item Affective and Cognitive measure of Empathy (ACME) scales proved to be internally consistent , unidimensional, and structurally reliable across samples and sexes. The ACME also predicted important outcomes; these predictions were incremental to other measures of empathy and generalizable across sex. Importantly, the affective scales of the ACME--particularly a new "affective dissonance" scale--yielded moderate to strong associations with aggressive behavior and externalizing disorders. The ACME is a short, reliable, and useful measure of empathy.




Lynam, Purdue University.

Subject Area

Clinical psychology

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