An actor came to me for help in playing an important role. The director of his play was dissatisfied because the actor was unable to convey a strong enough sense of sadness in his role as a grief-stricken man. The actor, whose own life circumstances were similar to those of his character, was blocked in his effort to feel empathy for the man he was meant to portray.
Empathy is a distinctly human ability to feel the emotions of someone else. If you grew jittery the last time you watched James Bond clutching the edge of a rooftop in a movie, that's empathy. But it's also broader than that.
Empathy is a special form of identification. It is a term coined by Sigmund Freud to describe how we see ourselves in someone else and make their experiences and attitudes part of our own self-concept. Social psychologist Kimball Young summed it up nicely: "The image of the self could not arise without some degree of sympathetic identification of the young child with others."
Often we don't understand someone's troubles because we haven't lived through them ourselves. Or, if we have experienced similar difficulties, they caused such pain that our empathy has become blocked. Such was the case of the actor mentioned above: He wouldn't allow himself to feel deep sorrow for fear it would revive depressing memories of his dying mother.
Empathy is an essential trait for dealing with others and much research has been conducted to understand it. At Eastern Illinois University, Dr. Mark Davis skillfully constructed tests that measure empathy. His findings, which appeared in the Journal of Personality, have important implications for understanding social development. The following quiz is adapted from his work.
To learn how you compare with others in your ability to empathize, choose the answer that best corresponds to how you would feel in each situation below.
LOVE & SEX
How Empathic Are You?
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This PhD certified quiz is based on The Big Book of Personality Tests by Dr. Salvatore V. Didato. Views and opinions expressed are not necessarily those of Chatterbean.com or Inkle Media, LLC. While this quiz is based on scientific research and clinical experience in psychology and social science, it is intended solely for entertainment and the results should not be interpreted as a professional evaluation. Users should seek professional assistance if they believe that they have a personality problem and should not take any action based on the results of any quiz they complete on this site.