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COMPASSION - How to Measure Compassion


Santa Clara Brief Compassion Scale (SCBCS)

The Santa Clara Brief Compassion Scale consists of five survey items describing compassion.

A group of researchers in the Psychology Department of Santa Clara University identified five statements that reflect compassion. Of course, people may disagree with the idea that five sentences describe the concept, compassion. Nevertheless, the researchers did consider 21 statements and found that a set of five captures most of what people considered to be the essential components of compassion in a 2005 study by other researchers.

The short scale is known as the Santa Clara Brief Compassion Scale (SCBCS;  Hwang, Plante, & Lackey, 2008). It was derived from the longer 21-item Compassionate Love Scale developed by Sprecher and Fehr (2005).

Although the scale has been used in Psychology of Religion research, the items do not limit users to compassion in a religious context.

Sample items

You can find the full scale at the Journal’s website. Following are two items from the scale.

 Compassion Scale asks respondents to rate each item on a scale of 1 to 7, which yields a possible range of 5 to 35 points. In research with my colleagues Kayla Jordan and Ev Worthington (2014), we found Christians rated themselves at the high end with a mean of 28.69 (SD = 5.46). Measures of Skew (-1.10) and Kurtosis (1.26) were adequate for analyses but less than ideal.

Educators, researchers, and students may want to add a this brief compassion scale to their survey projects.

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Internal reliability (Cronbach’s alpha) values were reported as .96 for the longer version and .90 for the new five-item short version. Using the test-retest method, the authors reported values of .80 and .83.
In our 2014 study, we found alpha = .89.


Validity statistics support the value of the Compassion Scale as a reasonable indicator of the construct and useful for various surveys and other research projects.
For example, in our table of correlations, the total score on the Compassion Scale was significantly positively correlated with, yet distinct from forgiveness (.25), hope (.18), and intrinsic religiosity (.26). See the table of 11 measures for additional correlations (page 218 of Sutton, Jordan, & Worthington, 2014).

Organizational and Clinical Practice

Although the scale has been used in research, the items may also be useful to help clinicians think about the level of compassion in their clients. The scale may also be useful to leaders in social organizations. As can be seen, the language of the scale does not limit its usage to strictly religious studies.

Read more about Love as Compassion in Chapter 10 of  Living Well

Resource Link:  A – Z Test Index

Hwang, J., Plante, T., & Lackey, K. (2008). The development of the Santa Clara Brief Compassion Scale: An abbreviation of Sprecher and Fehr's Compassionate Love Scale. Pastoral Psychology, 56, 421-428. doi:10.1007/s11089-008-0117-2
Sprecher, S., & Fehr, B. (2005). Compassionate love for close others and humanity. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 22, 629–651.
Sutton, G. W., Jordan, K., & Worthington, E.L., Jr. (2014). Spirituality, hope, compassion, and forgiveness: Contributions of Pentecostal spirituality to godly love. Journal of Psychology and Christianity, 33, 212-226. Academia Link     ResearchGate 
Photo credit: Edge images free to use.
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