AIM This paper is a report of an analysis of perspective-taking as presented in the nursing and psychological literature between 1972 and 2004. BACKGROUND Little is known about the caregiving processes that drive communication competence in patient and informal caregiver relationships. Evidence to date suggests that the empathic perspective-taking process plays a key role in promoting communication competence, perceptual accuracy and enhanced ability by caregivers to meet patients' needs arising in illness. Perspective-taking is a concept that has been explored extensively in health or social psychology, but not in nursing literature. METHOD Guided by Morse's typology of attributes and rules of relation, the concept of perspective-taking is explored as it is presented in nursing and social psychology literature, and in accordance with Davis's empathy model. FINDINGS Extant research and theory suggest that perspective-taking is an interpersonal empathic process involving a conscious effort in differentiating one's view from the view of another that can bring the caregivers' viewpoints in closer alignment with patients' viewpoints. Beginning evidence suggests that observers might achieve accurate perceptual accuracy about patients' illness experiences if they are prompted to imagine how patients perceive the situation and how they feel as a result. Research also needs to analyse the characteristics of the patient, informal caregiver and illness situation in order to comprehend more fully which caregiver dyads need assistance with perspective-taking to optimize their skill in providing sufficient patient care. CONCLUSION The current emphasis for empirical research in caregiving is to uncover underlying caregiving processes that exist in pre-existing patient and informal caregiver relationships. Once further evidence is found to further corroborate the perspective-taking process and perceptual accuracy linkage and factors that moderate this linkage, then evidence-based interventions can be designed and tested to optimize empathic processes that minimize perceptual differences between patients and informal caregivers.