The New Science of Empathic Accuracy Could Transform Society

Do you believe that the ability to put yourself in someone else’s shoes and feel empathetic is more the result of gut intuition or systematic reasoning? Contrary to popular belief, new research has identified that engaging in systematic and methodical thinking—as opposed to relying on gut instincts or intuition—is associated with increased accuracy when interpreting others’ feelings.

As it turns out, the latest empirical evidence suggests that you shouldn’t trust your gut reaction completely in order to optimize empathic accuracy, which is the ability to pick up on the motivations, mindset, and emotions of others. 

In the 1980s, William Ickes coined the term ’empathic accuracy,’ which he described as “everyday mind reading” and discusses at length in his seminal book, Everyday Mind Reading:  Understanding What Other People Think and Feel. Having a cognitive appreciation of other people’s state of mind is also referred to as ‘mentalizing.’


Christopher Bergland