Cognitive and emotional empathy in typical and impaired readers and its relationship to reading competence

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Studies indicate a strong relationship between empathy and language skills, but the relationship between reading and empathy remains elusive, although a shared neural substrate (the temporoparietal junction; TPJ) has been implicated in both reading and empathy. Motivated by these observations, the purpose of the current study was to examine empathic skills in a large spectrum of reading abilities, including typical readers and individuals with dyslexia, and their relationship to reading competence. We administered the Intrapersonal Reactivity Index (IRI) test, which differentiates between two subscales of empathy (cognitive and emotional empathy), to a group of participants with dyslexia and typical readers. Results indicate that the general reading score (average z scores of all reading tests) was significantly positively correlated with empathic scores. In addition, tests of specific reading abilities—decoding, reading fluency, and reading-related measures of phonological awareness—were significantly positively correlated with empathic scores. Finally, participants with dyslexia who showed low reading abilities had significantly lower scores in total empathy and cognitive empathy, as measured by the IRI test, than did typical participants with high reading abilities. Taken together, these results indicate a strong association between reading-related skills and empathic abilities and may point to involvement of the TPJ in both empathy and reading.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1131-1143
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Clinical and Experimental Neuropsychology
Issue number10
StatePublished - 25 Nov 2016

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.


  • Developmental dyslexia
  • Empathy
  • Intrapersonal reactivity index
  • Reading
  • Temporoparietal junction

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology
  • Neurology
  • Clinical Psychology


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