Observations on the relation of empathy with specific social parameters in a sample of student population
PATERA A. M.D., VASSILOPOULOU E. M.D.
Neurology Clinic of Athens University Eginitio Hospital
The findings of several studies have contributed to the documentation of the fact that students tend to present with a multitude of motives, in relation not only to their student identity but to their social recognition. However, the factors defining the behavior in general are the interaction of persons with circumstances and the conjunction of various individual and environmental characteristics. One of the most important elements for the creation of a satisfactory interpersonal relation and a substantial element for the commencement of a relation is "empathy". According to an established definition "empathy is the ability to assume the role of another person and to adapt alternative perspectives for him/her".
The aim of the present study is to determine the relationship between the various components of empathy. The authors studied sample of 104 Greek students (aged 18 to 25 years, 21.6±2.4 years) who were evaluated by using the "Interpersonal Reactivity Index", a questionnaire which evaluates empathy. The questionnaire used in a randomised sample of students, it was anonymous, voluntary and the students were asked to answer it in their personal time. In order to obtain reliable results the questionnaire was translated into the Greek language by two independent translators. The "Interpersonal Reactivity Index" questionnaire evaluates two cognitive (Perspective Taking, Fantasy) and two emotional (Empathic Concern, Personal Distress) factors. The scores obtained were evaluated taking into account various social factors such as: the age, the educational status of the parents of the students and whether the student lived with their family or not.
For the statistical evaluation of our results the ANOVA method was used.
The statistical analysis of our data revealed that:
It is well known that empathy is defined by various ways. Regardless the definition used the vast majority of investigators seem to agree that under the term "empathy" the following characteristic can be described:
Based on this content of empathy, the results of the present study indicate that the total student sample presents prominent empathy which evaluates emotions of interests, tenderness and sympathy. This characteristic of affective empathy seem to be a steady factor for both groups i.e. the students living alone, as well as for those living with their parents.
The results are discussed in relation to those of the literature regarding the issue of the content of empathy.
The findings of our study should be interpreted with caution and should be verified in a larger and more representative student population. Encephalos 2009, 46(1):28-34.
Key words: Empathy, social factors, student population.