Cognitive and affective components of empathy and their relationship with personality dimensions in a Chinese sample

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Abstract

Empathy is an essential component of social interactions and may be related to personality characteristics. However, this issue has not been extensively examined in a Chinese sample. Students at six universities in China (N = 257) completed the Interpersonal Reactivity Index (IRI), the Eysenck Personality Questionnaire-Revised (EPQ-R), and the Depression, Anxiety and Stress Scale (DASS-21). Using multiple regression analyses, and after accounting for demographic variables (sex and age), it was found that the affective empathy component Personal Distress positively predicted EPQ-R Neuroticism scores (β = .49), negatively predicted Extraversion (β = –.21) and Lie scale scores (β = –.22), and positively predicted DASS-21 Depression (β = .26), Anxiety (β = .34) and Stress scores (β = .39). Empathic Concern positively predicted Lie Scale scores (β = .21), and negatively predicted Psychoticism scores (β = –.24). Individuals with high scores in Empathic Concern were also found to score more highly on Fantasy, Personal Distress, Neuroticism, Stress and Anxiety. Thus, more empathic individuals are likely to experience elevations in negative affectivity when they perceive the emotional suffering of others.

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