OBJECTIVE: This systematic review and meta-analysis aimed to clarify the association between social anxiety and affective (AE) and cognitive empathy (CE).
METHODS: 1442 studies from PsycINFO, Medline, and EMBASE (inception-January 2020) were systematically reviewed. Included studies (N = 48) either predicted variance in empathy using social anxiety scores or compared empathy scores between socially anxious individuals and a control group.
RESULTS: Social anxiety and AE were statistically significantly positively associated, k = 14, r = .103 (95%CI [.003, .203]), z = 2.03, p = .043. Sex (QM (2) = 18.79, p < .0001), and type of measures (QM (1 = 7.34, p = .007) moderated the association. Correlations were significant for male samples (rmale = .316, (95%CI [.200, .432])) and studies using self-report measures (rself-report = .162 (95%CI [.070, .254])). Overall, social anxiety and CE were not significantly associated, k = 52, r =-.021 (95%CI [-.075, .034]), z= -0.74, p = .459. Sample type moderated the association (QM (1) = 5.03, p < .0001). For clinical samples the association was negative (rclinical= -.112, (95%CI [-.201, -.017]).
CONCLUSION: There was evidence for a positive association between social anxiety and AE, but future studies are needed to verify the moderating roles of sex and type of measure. Besides, low CE might only hold for patients with SAD.
- social anxiety
- affective empathy
- cognitive empathy
- systematic review