Differential associations of the two higher-order factors of mindfulness with trait empathy and the mediating role of emotional awareness

Observational study
Structural equation modeling

Borghi, O., Mayrhofer, L., Voracek, M., & Tran, U. S. (2023). Differential associations of the two higher-order factors of mindfulness with trait empathy and the mediating role of emotional awareness. Scientific Reports, 13(1), Article 1. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-023-30323-6


Olaf Borghi

University of Vienna

Lukas Mayrhofer

University of Vienna

Martin Voracek

University of Vienna

Ulrich S. Tran

University of Vienna


February 2023

Other details

This was my first, first author paper as a result from my undergratuate (BSc) thesis. If I would do this study now, I would probably do much different and maybe approach some analyses from a different point of view. Still, this was a huge learning process for me.

Open dataOpen


Empathy enables us to understand the emotions of others and is an important determinant of prosocial behavior. Investigating the relationship between mindfulness and empathy could therefore provide important insights into factors that promote interpersonal understanding and pathways that contribute to prosocial behavior. As prior studies have yielded only inconsistent results, this study extended previous findings and investigated for the first time the associations of two important factors of mindfulness (Self-regulated Attention [SRA] and Orientation to Experience [OTE]) with two commonly proposed components of empathy (cognitive empathy and affective empathy). Using a community sample of N = 552 German-speaking adults, the two mindfulness factors were differentially associated with cognitive and affective empathy. SRA correlated positively with cognitive empathy (r = 0.44; OTE: r = 0.09), but OTE correlated negatively with affective empathy (r = −0.27; SRA: r = 0.11). This negative association was strongest for one specific aspect of affective empathy, emotional contagion. Revisiting previously reported mediating effects of emotion regulation, we found that emotional awareness mediated the associations with both components of empathy, but only for SRA. Together, these findings imply that mindfulness benefits the cognitive understanding of others’ emotions via two distinct pathways: by promoting emotional awareness (SRA) and by limiting the undue impact of others’ emotions on oneself (OTE).


  title = {Differential Associations of the Two Higher-Order Factors of Mindfulness with Trait Empathy and the Mediating Role of Emotional Awareness},
  author = {Borghi, Olaf and Mayrhofer, Lukas and Voracek, Martin and Tran, Ulrich S.},
  year = {2023},
  month = feb,
  journal = {Scientific Reports},
  volume = {13},
  number = {1},
  pages = {3201},
  publisher = {Nature Publishing Group},
  issn = {2045-2322},
  doi = {10.1038/s41598-023-30323-6},
  urldate = {2023-02-24},
  copyright = {2023 The Author(s)},
  langid = {english},
  keywords = {Human behaviour,Psychology},