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A language assessment to determine healthy (salutogenic) empathy

Researchers at Penn have developed a natural-language and social media- language based evaluation tool set for natural language (including social media posts) that provides a salutogenic empathy score


Empathy refers to a variety of states and traits involving a reaction to another’s suffering. Empathy is a highly sought after trait in certain domains. Yet empathy is poorly understood which has led to inconsistent ways of measuring it. Research suggests that there are different types of empathy, which have varying impacts on our well-being and helping behavior. Salutogenic empathy; i.e. “putting oneself into the person’s shoes” -while avoiding an emotional reaction - has been shown to be adaptive, health-promoting, and more conducive to effective helping behavior. Measuring this empathy in individuals would be valuable.


Adults use social media regularly. Sites such as Facebook and Twitter consist of large informal networks of users who provide updates on: their thoughts, opinions, feelings, activities, and interactions with other people. We use these databases of autobiographical and longitudinal data to gain insights into the personality, thoughts and feelings, action tendencies, and physical and psychological health outcomes of users. Social media-based models have the advantage of basing predictions and insights on years of autobiographical data, while still remaining based in the ground truth of a self-reported assessment.

The World Well Being Project has created a lexicon that analyzes social media posts to provide a near real-time analysis of the salutogenic empathy of a social media user. The use of an unobtrusive tool allows for passive monitoring of large population sizes that does not face the bias associated with traditional psychological questionnaires.


  • Near real-time analysis
  • Uses existing social media information streams
  • Does not require direct interaction with analysis group
  • Can be narrowly defined to analyze a group
  • Could be utilized to monitor salutogenic empathy over time.


Evaluating the salutogenic empathy of the general or a defined population (a team, workforce, event participants, etc…)

Stage of Development:

The salutogenic empathy lexicon has been developed and is ready for use.

Intellectual Property:

Copyright, Trade Secret

Reference Media:

Body of publications available through the World Well Being Project

Desired Partnerships:

  • Licensing
  • Co-development
  • Research use

Patent Information:


Docket # 17-8269

For Information, Contact:

Qishui Chen Licensing Officer, SEAS/SAS Licensing Group
University of Pennsylvania