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Med Teach. 2012;34(10):807-12. doi: 10.3109/0142159X.2012.702248. Epub 2012 Oct 8.

Empathy of medical students and personality: evidence from the Five-Factor Model.

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Medical Education Unit, School of Health Sciences, University of Minho, Braga, Portugal.


The main aim of this study was to test hypothetical associations between personality dimensions and empathy scores in medical students. The Portuguese version of NEO-FFI was administered in order to characterize participants in terms of five personality traits: Neuroticism, Extraversion, Agreeableness, Openness to Experience, and Conscientiousness. Self-reported empathy measures were obtained with the Portuguese version of the Jefferson Scale of Physician Empathy (JSPE-spv), a Likert-type questionnaire specifically developed for administration in health sciences settings that measures domains, such as compassionate care and perspective taking. Correlation analysis, multivariate analysis of covariance, and logistic regression analysis were conducted. The results confirmed positive associations between agreeableness, openness to experience and empathy, and did not support our hypothesis of negative associations between neuroticism and empathy. It is suggested that that the personality of students should be taken into account in programs to enhance empathy in undergraduate medical education.

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