Emotion Specific Empathy (ESE): Surprise Cognitive Empathy

The Emotion Specific Empathy (ESE) questionnaire is a 60-item measure that is intended to assess affective and cognitive empathy for six basic emotions - anger, disgust, fear, sadness, happiness and fear. The Surprise Cognitive Empathy sub-scale is one of 12 sub-scales of five items each and assesses the extent to which one can cognitively take another person’s perspective and understand why that person is surprised. The other sub-scales can be found on EMERGE. Please refer to the paper for the order of questions when administering the entire measure.


Geographies Tested:

Populations Included: Female, Male

Age Range:


1. It is easy for me to understand why others become surprised when something unexpected happens to them.
2. I have a hard time predicting what situations will make other persons surprised.
3. If someone tells me about an event that made him/her surprised, I can easily understand why that event made him/her surprised.
4. It is difficult for me to understand what makes my friends surprised.

5. I can easily think about events that will make my friends surprised.

*Items reverse coded during scoring

Response Options
Disagree Strongly - -3
Disagree Somewhat - -2
Disagree Slightly - -1
Neutral - 0
Agree Slightly - 1
Agree Somewhat - 2
Agree Strongly - 3

Scoring Procedures

Scores for subscales are calculated by taking an average across the items. The asterisk indicates that the item should be reverse coded when scored.

Original Citation

Olderbak, S., Sassenrath, C., Keller, J., & Wilhelm, O. (2014). An emotion-differentiated perspective on empathy with the emotion specific empathy questionnaire. Frontiers in psychology, 5, 653.

Psychometric Score

Ease of Use Score

Scoring breakdown

Formative Research

Qualitative Research

Existing Literature/Theoretical Framework

Field Expert Input

Cognitive Interviews / Pilot Testing








Criterion (gold-standard)



Ease of Use


Scoring Clarity


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