Empathic concern: Distinguishing between tenderness and sympathy

Lidewij Niezink, F.W. Siero, Pieternel Dijkstra*, Abraham (Bram) Buunk, D.P.H. Barelds

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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The present research proposes that empathic concern, as assessed by six items of the ERQ, consists of two separate emotions, i.e., tenderness and sympathy. To test this assumption, nine studies were conducted among, in total, 1,273 participants. In these studies participants were presented with a hypothetical scenario of someone in need, after which empathic concern was assessed. Factor analyses showed that, indeed, the ERQ items that assess empathic concern can be split up in two factors, that is, one reflecting sympathy and one reflecting tenderness. In addition, in line with previous studies, our research showed that, in response to a need-situation that reflects current needs, individuals scored higher on the ERQ factor reflecting sympathy than on the ERQ factor reflecting tenderness. Findings are discussed in terms of the practical and theoretical implications of distinguishing between sympathy and tenderness.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)544-549
Number of pages6
JournalMotivation and Emotion
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Dec-2012


  • Empathic concern
  • Sympathy
  • Tenderness

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