Interpersonal Reactivity Index

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The Interpersonal Reactivity Index (IRI) is a published measurement tool for the multi-dimensional assessment of empathy. It was developed by Mark H. Davis, a professor of psychology at Eckerd College.[1]

The paper describing IRI, published in 1983,[1] has been cited over 10,000 times, according to Google Scholar.[2]

IRI s a self-report comprising 28-items answered on a 5-point Likert scale ranging from "Does not describe me well" to "Describes me very well".

The four subscales[1] are:

  • Perspective Taking – the tendency to spontaneously adopt the psychological point of view of others.
  • Fantasy – taps respondents' tendencies to transpose themselves imaginatively into the feelings and actions of fictitious characters in books, movies, and plays.
  • Empathic Concern – assesses "other-oriented" feelings of sympathy and concern for unfortunate others.
  • Personal Distress – measures "self-oriented" feelings of personal anxiety and unease in tense interpersonal settings.

Example questions:

  • 11. I sometimes try to understand my friends better by imagining how things look from their perspective.
  • 28. Before criticizing somebody, I try to imagine how I would feel if I were in their place.

Versatility and Adaptability[edit]

A study by De Corte et al. (2007) translated the IRI into Dutch.[3] The researchers found that their translation is just as valid and reliable as Davis's original version, albeit in their educated, still Westernized sample.

Another study by Péloquin and Lafontaine (2010) adapted the IRI to specifically measure empathy in couples rather than individuals.[4] This was achieved by rewording some phrases used in the original, for example replacing references to "people" and "somebody" to be "my partner," etc. Several couples were also asked to return after twelve months to be re-evaluated. This new version still adequately measured empathy as well as demonstrated predictive validity in the returning couples, correlating relationship satisfaction and each partner's empathy.

Garcia-Barrera, Karr, Trujillo-Orrego, Trujillo-Orrego, and Pineda (2017) translated and modified the IRI into a Colombian Spanish version.[5] This version was used to measure empathy in Colombian militants returning to society after having seen combat. The study encountered more difficulty in obtaining valid and reliable findings than previous studies. They attributed this difficulty largely due to the lack of education of the participants, which resulted in the introspective and abstract items of the IRI being difficult to understand.


  1. ^ a b c MH Davis. "Measuring individual differences in empathy: Evidence for a multidimensional approach". Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 1983 v.44:1 p.113-126
  2. ^ User profiles for "MH Davis" on Google Scholar
  3. ^ De Corté, K., Buysse, A., Verhofstadt, L. L., Roeyers, H., Ponnet, K., & Davis, M. H. (2007). Measuring empathic tendencies: Reliability and validity of the Dutch version of the Interpersonal Reactivity Index. Psychologica Belgica, 47(4), 235-260. [1]
  4. ^ Péloquin, K., & Lafontaine, M. (2010). Measuring empathy in couples: Validity and reliability of the Interpersonal Reactivity Index for couples. Journal of Personality Assessment, 92(2), 146-157. [2]
  5. ^ Garcia-Barrera, M. A., Karr, J. E., Trujillo-Orrego, N., Trujillo-Orrego, S., & Pineda, D. A. (2017). Evaluating empathy in Colombian ex-combatants: Examination of the internal structure of the Interpersonal Reactivity Index (IRI) in Spanish. Psychological Assessment, 29(1), 116-122. [3]

External links[edit]