Situational assessment of empathy and compassion: Predicting prosociality using a video-based task

Gabriela Górska, Aviva Berkovich-Ohana, Olga Klimecki, Fynn Mathis Trautwein

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Classical psychometric approaches in social science measure individuals’ tendency to experience empathy and compassion. Using abstract questionnaire items, they place high demand on subjects’ capacity to introspect, memorize, and generalize the corresponding emotions. We employed a Socio-affective Video Task (SoVT)—an alternative approach that measures situationally elicited emotions—and assessed its predictive power over prosocial behavior against classical questionnaires in a sample of Israeli university students. We characterized the conceptual embedding of the SoVT concerning other measures of prosocial affect and cognition, and tested group identification as an alternative precursor to prosocial behavior. Eighty participants rated their reactions to videos that presented the suffering of others or everyday scenes on scales of negative affect (providing a proxy for elicited empathy) and compassion. We then administered classical questionnaires that target empathy (the Interpersonal Reactivity Index) and compassion (the Compassionate Love Scale), as well as measures of hypothetical and real-life helping and prosocial attitudes—including conflict attitudes and intergroup bias. While compassion ratings in the SoVT failed to predict prosociality more accurately than classical questionnaires, the SoVT empathy index succeeded and correlated strongly with other precursors of prosociality. These results support video-based situational assessment as an implicit and robust alternative in the measurement of empathy-related processes.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0289465
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 Górska et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.


  • Attitude
  • Emotions
  • Empathy
  • Humans
  • Love
  • Psychometrics


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