In the 1970's and 1980's, a few borderline personality disorder (BPD) researchers proposed that individuals with BPD are unusually sensitive to other people's emotional states, a phenomenon called "borderline empathy." This hypothesis sparked several research studies examining whether people with BPD are better able to "read" others, with mixed results. Some studies demonstrated that people with BPD were more sensitive to others' emotional states, while others did not find evidence for borderline empathy.
However, a recent study adds another twist-- researchers paired people with BPD with non-BPDs, and compared how well each member of the pair could "read" the other's internal state. At first glance, it appeared that the people with BPD were more empathic than their partner. However, further analysis suggested that this effect was probably due to the fact that the person with BPD was more difficult to read, not that they were reading their partner better.
Clearly, more work is needed to fully understand whether "borderline empathy" exists. What do you think? Are people with BPD more sensitive to the internal states of other people?
Flury JM, Ickes W, Schweinle W. "The Borderline Empathy Effect: Do High BPD Individuals Have Greater Empathic Ability? Or Are They Just More Difficult To 'Read?'." Journal of Research in Personality, 42:312-332, April 2008.