Affective, sensory and empathic sharing of another's pain: the Empathy for Pain Scale

Melita Joy Giummarra, Bernadette Fitzgibbon, Nellie Georgiou-Karistianis, Megan Beukelman, Antonio Javier Verdejo-Garcia, Zachary Blumberg, Michael Jih Yoh Chou, Stephen J Gibson

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27 Citations (Scopus)


Through two studies, we introduce and validate the Empathy for Pain Scale (EPS), which characterizes the phenomenology of empathy for pain, including the vicarious experience of pain when seeing others in pain. Methods In study 1, 406 individuals completed the EPS and Interpersonal Reactivity Index (IRI). In the EPS, four painful scenarios (witnessing surgery, patient recovering from surgery, assault and accidental injury) were rated for 12 emotional, empathic and sensory responses. In study 2, 59 participants completed the same questionnaires and then watched and rated videos of sporting injuries. Results In study 1, we identified three factors of the EPS with principal component analysis, which were validated with confirmatory factor analysis: affective distress; vicarious pain; and empathic concern. The EPS demonstrated good psychometric properties, re-test reliability (n = 105) and concurrent validity. In study 2, we validated the EPS against empathic reactions to the pain of others as displayed in video clips depicting sporting injuries and showed that the scale has unique utility to characterize empathic reactions to pain above general trait empathy measures. Both studies showed that the affective distress and empathic concern subscales of the EPS correlated with measures of cognitive and affective empathy from the IRI, whereas the vicarious pain subscale was only correlated with the personal distress IRI subscale. Conclusions The EPS is a psychometrically sound new scale that characterizes empathy for pain and vicarious pain. The EPS offers valuable insight to the phenomenological profile of the affective, empathic and sensory dimensions of empathy for pain
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)807 - 816
Number of pages10
JournalEuropean Journal of Pain
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 2015

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