Does university Psychology training increase empathy in students?

Empathy, and Theory of Mind (ToM) as a cognitive element of empathy, are key components in the helping professions, yet little is known about the development of empathy in psychology training. Soto-Chodiman, Becerra, and Harms (2012) reduced this gap by comparing ToM and empathy levels in first and third year undergraduate psychology students.

After screening for mood and social desirability, scores of ToM were measured using the Reading the Mind in the Eyes test (Eyes test) (Baron-Cohen, Wheelwright, Hill, Raste, & Plumb, 2001) (Baron-Cohen, Wheelwright, Hill, Raste, & Plumb, 2001) and empathy levels on the four subscales of Interpersonal Reactivity Index (IRI) (Davis, 1980).

Independent t-tests revealed a significant increase in the Eyes test and no significant IRI results. Soto-Chodiman et al. (2012) recommended expanding the research to Masters level psychology students who may gain empathy via practical experience and training.

Elizabeth McGechie (Honours)
Dr Rodrigo Becerra
Dr Craig Harms