Empathy Towards HIV-Infected Persons Greater for Nursing/Psychology Students
February 23, 2005
In the current study, the researchers examined the influence of sex, college major, and attributed responsibility on college students' empathy towards HIV-infected persons.
"We hypothesized that (1) women would score higher on empathy than men; (2) nursing and psychology majors would score higher on empathy than business and computer science majors; and (3) participants would score higher on empathy towards a target who contracted HIV though blood transfusion (presented as a Nonresponsible target) rather than through unprotected sex (presented as a Responsible target,)" wrote L. Becares and colleagues.
At a large urban university in the Northeast, 258 undergraduate students (110 male, 148 female) filled out an anonymous demographic questionnaire, the Interpersonal Reactivity Index of Davis (1983), as well as an Empathy Reaction Scale developed by the researchers.
"Results indicated a higher mean Empathy Reaction score from nursing and psychology students as compared to business and computer science students. There was no difference in Empathy Reaction scores between men and women," concluded the researchers. "A higher Empathy Reaction score was found among participants who had read a diary from the target portrayed as Nonresponsible, as opposed to those who read a diary from the target portrayed as Responsible."
The study, "Sex, College Major, and Attribution of Responsibility in Empathetic Responding to Persons With HIV Infection," was published in the journal Psychological Reports (2004;95(2):467-476).
Women's Health Weekly
This article was provided by U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update. Visit the CDC's website to find out more about their activities, publications and services.