Affective empathy, or the emotional response one has to the experiences or emotional states of others, contributes to relationship-maintaining behaviors and is key in fostering social connections, yet no work has synthesized the body of literature for people with schizophrenia. The aim of the present meta-analysis was to determine the extent to which those diagnosed with schizophrenia experience deficits in affective empathy.
A literature search was conducted of studies examining empathy. Data were analyzed using a random effects meta-analytic model with Hedges’ g standardized mean difference effect size.
Individuals with schizophrenia exhibited significant, medium deficits in affective empathy (k = 37). Measurement type moderated the affective empathy deficit such that performance-based measures showed larger schizophrenia group deficits than self-report measures.
Consistent, significant deficits in affective empathy were found comparing people with schizophrenia to healthy controls, especially when using performance-based assessments. The medium effect suggests an important role for empathy in the realm of social cognitive research, and points to the need for further investigation of measurement techniques and associations with functional outcomes.