We examine the link between depression and empathic accuracy, the ability to infer other people's thoughts and feelings, as a possible mechanism underlying gender differences in the association between depression and interpersonal difficulties within intimate relationships. Fifty-one heterosexual couples completed questionnaires assessing depressive symptoms and participated in both a lab and a daily diary procedure assessing empathic accuracy. In the lab measures, women's (but not men's) higher levels of depressive symptoms were associated with lower empathic accuracy regarding partners' thoughts and feelings. In the daily diary data, women's depressive symptoms were specifically associated with lower levels of empathic accuracy for negative feelings but not for positive feelings, and with lower levels of their partners' empathic accuracy for the women's negative feelings. Men's depressive symptoms were again unrelated to levels of empathic accuracy. Our findings suggest that depressive symptoms may have a stronger impact on interpersonal perception in intimate relationships among women than among men.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This study was supported by scholarships awarded to the first author by the School of Education and the Lafer Center for Women and Gender Studies of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem
- dyadic data
- empathic accuracy
- experience sampling