Empathic Accuracy


  • This article was written while the author was on sabbatical, and the support of the Department of Psychology, University of Washington, is gratefully acknowledged.

should be sent to William Ickes, Department of Psychology, University of Texas, Arlington, TX 76019-0528.


ABSTRACT People are motivated to understand each other's psychological states as well as each other's personality traits. As a consequence, the more traditional study of accuracy in trait inference can be complemented by, and potentially benefit from, the insights provided by the more recent study of empathic accuracy. Findings in this area suggest that future research should devote more attention to (a) the history of the perceiver-target relationship; (b) the perceiver's desired future relationship with the target; (c) the possibility that perceivers have little or no “metaknowledge” regarding their own empathic ability; and (d) the possibility that, under certain conditions, perceivers might be motivated to be inaccurate, rather than accurate, in their inferences about other people's dispositions.