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December 1971

A Comparative Study of Empathy: The Effects of Psychiatric Training

Author Affiliations

Boston; Stevens Point, Wis
From the Laboratory of Community Psychiatry, Department of Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School, Boston (Dr. Khajavi) and the Department of Psychology, Wisconsin State University, Stevens Point (Dr. Hekmat).

Arch Gen Psychiatry. 1971;25(6):490-493. doi:10.1001/archpsyc.1971.01750180010002

This study compared the empathy level of psychiatrists, psychologists, psychiatric social workers, psychiatric nurses, and activity therapists. They scored significantly higher than a control group of surgeons who were assumed to have had more emphasis on procedural and technical aspects of their professional training than on empathic interpersonal relationship with their patients. Though psychologists scored highest and psychiatrists lowest on the empathy scale, there was no significant trend indicating the superiority of one profession over the other. The effects of psychiatric residency training on the development of empathy was also explored, and two basic trends were observed. Residency training in psychiatry neither facilitated nurturance of empathy nor contributed to its deterioration in the residents, and experienced psychiatrists were significantly more empathic than the residents.

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