Table of Contents
ISRN Psychiatry
Volume 2013, Article ID 801530, 6 pages
Research Article

Emotional and Cognitive Empathy in First-Year Medical Students

1Department of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy, Ludwig Maximilian University, Nußbaumstraße 7, 80336 Munich, Germany
2Department of Surgery, Ludwig Maximilian University, Nußbaumstraße 20, 80336 Munich, Germany
3Institute of Psychology, University of Innsbruck, Innrain 52, 6020 Innsbruck, Austria

Received 30 July 2013; Accepted 16 September 2013

Academic Editors: W. El-Hage, M. Innamorati, Z. Kronfol, V. Sar, and M. V. Seeman

Copyright © 2013 Sandra Dehning et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Objectives. Doctors’ empathy towards their patients is considered important for treatment outcome. However, during medical school there might be a decline in empathy called “hardening of the heart.” This study evaluated the cognitive and emotional empathy in medical students and investigated the influence of a preference for a specialty and students attachment styles. Methods. 126 first-year medical students were included and completed the Reading the Mind in the Eyes Test revised version (RME-R), the Balanced Emotional Empathy Scale (BEES), and the Experiences in Close Relationships-Revised Adult Attachment Questionnaire (ECR-R). Results. Students identified of 36 photographs in the RME-R test correctly (norm: 26). The female students’ mean BEES total score was and the male students’ ; . The female students’ mean BEES score was significantly ( ) below the female norm of 60. Students who preferred a specialty with continuity of patient care scored significantly higher in the BEES ( ). A more avoidant attachment style was associated with a lower BEES score ( ). Conclusion. The students showed low emotional and cognitive empathy scores and an avoidant attachment style. This supports the inclusion of specific training in cognitive and emotional empathy in medical education.