Affective and Cognitive Measure of Empathy (ACME)

The Affective and Cognitive Measure of Empathy (ACME) measure is a 36 item measure of empathy that intends to predict outcomes such as aggressive behavior and externalizing psychopathology. The ACME contains three subscales: Cognitive Empathy, Affect Resonance and Affective Dissonance.


Geographies Tested: United States of America

Populations Included: Female, Male

Age Range: Adolescents, Adults


Cognitive Empathy (COG)
1. I have a hard time reading people’s emotions.*
2. I can tell when someone is afraid.
3. It’s obvious when people are pretending to be happy.
4. I usually understand why people feel the way they do.
5. I have a hard time figuring out what someone else is feeling.*
6. I can tell when people are about to lose their temper.
7. I can usually predict how someone will feel.
8. I can usually tell how people are feeling.
9. I am not good at understanding other people’s emotions.*
10. I can usually guess what’s making someone angry.
11. People don’t have to tell me when they’re sad, I can see it in their faces.
12. I find it hard to tell when someone is sad.*

Affect Resonance (RES)
13. It makes me feel good to help someone in need.
14. I get excited to give someone a gift that I think they will enjoy.
15. I don’t worry much about hurting people’s feelings.*
16. I don’t really care if other people feel happy.*
17. I don’t really care if people are feeling depressed.*
18. Other people’s feelings don’t bother me at all.*
19. I feel awful when I hurt someone’s feelings.
20. Other people’s misfortunes don’t bother me much.*
21. If I see that I am doing something that hurts someone, I will quickly stop.
22. I often try to help people feel better when they are upset.
23. I enjoy making others happy.
24. People have told me that I’m insensitive.*

Affective Dissonance(DIS)
25. I think it’s fun to push people around once and a while.*
26. I love watching people get angry.*
27. I enjoy seeing strangers get scared.*
28. When my friends are having a good time I often get angry.*
29. People who are cheery disgust me.*
30. I like making other people uncomfortable.*
31. I get a kick out of making other people feel stupid.*
32. When my friends get angry I often feel like laughing.*
33. Sometimes I enjoy seeing people cry.*
34. Sometimes it’s funny to see people get humiliated.*
35. If I could get away with it, there are some people I would enjoy hurting.*
36. I admit that I enjoy irritating other people.*

*Items are reverse scored

Response Options:
5-point Likert scale
Strongly disagree - 1
Strongly agree - 5

Scoring Procedures

On all three subscales, items are summed and high scores indicate greater empathy.

Original Citation

Vachon, D. D., & Lynam, D. R. (2016). Fixing the problem with empathy: Development and validation of the Affective and Cognitive Measure of Empathy. Assessment, 23(2), 135-149.

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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