ISSN 2043-8087
Journal of Experimental Psychopathology
 Volume 8, Issue 2, 175-191, 2017
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Are social skill and empathy separable constructs? A psychometric evaluation of a new role-play assessment of empathy for individuals with schizophrenia

  Emily Gagen - Department of Psychology, University of North Caro
  Clare Gibson - Research Service, Baltimore VA Healthcare System,
  Tonya Elliott - Department of Psychiatry, University of North Caro
  Kelly Smedley - Department of Psychiatry, University of North Caro
  L. Fredrik Jarskog - Department of Psychiatry, University of North Caro
  Cort Pedersen - Department of Psychiatry, University of North Caro
  David Penn - Department of Psychology, University of North Caro

Volume 8, Issue 2, 2017, Pages 175-191


Social cognitive deficits are well documented in people with schizophrenia; this includes deficits in empathy, or the ability to both understand and share the emotions of another person.  However, current measures of empathy were developed for use on other populations, only measure individual constructs that comprise empathy, or utilize self-report methods.  People with schizophrenia are known to have poor insight into their own abilities, making these kinds of instruments an unreliable choice for assessing empathy.  The present study evaluated the psychometric properties of a role-play measure of empathy called the Performance of Empathic Expression Rating Scale (PEERS) in a sample of 60 individuals with schizophrenia and 51 healthy controls. The role-play ratings assess a person’s ability to interact empathically with a confederate in an emotionally charged situation. The PEERS demonstrated acceptable internal consistency and inter-rater reliability. Construct validity was assessed through analyses of variance to examine differences between patients and controls. Patients performed significantly worse than controls, but most of these differences were explained by an individual’s social skill ability. Convergent validity analyses indicated that the PEERS is related to some aspects of a self-report measure of empathy and a theory of mind task. The PEERS also demonstrated acceptable discriminant validity. Implications for the future use of this assessment will be discussed. 

Table of Contents
 Development of the PEERS
 Rating and Anchors
 Social Cognition Measures
  Theory of mind
 Functional Measures (schizophrenia sample only)
  Social and role functioning
 Preliminary Analyses
 Hypothesis Testing
  Reliability Analyses
  Validity Analyses
 Post Hoc Analyses
Appendix 1. Administration of the PEERS

Correspondence to
Emily Gagen, Department of Psychology, Davie Hall, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, CB #3270, Chapel Hill, NC 27599.

Schizophrenia, social cognition, empathy, psychometrics, role-play

Received 30 Aug 2015; Revised 2 Nov 2016; Accepted 2 Nov 2016; In Press 19 Feb 2017

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