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Structure and correlates of self-reported empathy in schizophrenia.

  • Author(s): Horan, William P
  • Reise, Steven P
  • Kern, Robert S
  • Lee, Junghee
  • Penn, David L
  • Green, Michael F
  • et al.

Research on empathy in schizophrenia has relied on dated self-report scales that do not conform to contemporary social neuroscience models of empathy. The current study evaluated the structure and correlates of the recently-developed Questionnaire of Cognitive and Affective Empathy (QCAE) in schizophrenia. This measure, whose structure and validity was established in healthy individuals, includes separate scales to assess the two main components of empathy: Cognitive Empathy (assessed by two subscales) and Affective Empathy (assessed by three subscales). Stable outpatients with schizophrenia (n = 145) and healthy individuals (n = 45) completed the QCAE, alternative measures of empathy, and assessments of clinical symptoms, neurocognition, and functional outcome. Exploratory and confirmatory factor analyses provided consistent support for a two-factor solution in the schizophrenia group, justifying the use of separate cognitive and affective empathy scales in this population. However, one of the three Affective Empathy subscales was not psychometrically sound and was excluded from further analyses. Patients reported significantly lower Cognitive Empathy but higher Affective Empathy than controls. Among patients, the QCAE scales showed significant correlations with an alternative self-report empathy scale, but not with performance on an empathic accuracy task. The QCAE Cognitive Empathy subscales also showed significant, though modest, correlations with negative symptoms and functional outcome. These findings indicate that structure of self-reported empathy is similar in people with schizophrenia and healthy subjects, and can be meaningfully compared between groups. They also contribute to emerging evidence that some aspects of empathy may be intact or hyper-responsive in schizophrenia.

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