Intentional and Unintentional Empathy for Pain Among Physicians and Nonphysicians

Victoria L. Spring, Christopher Daryl Cameron, Stephanie McKee, Andrew R. Todd

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

1 Citation (Scopus)

Abstract

Empathy can be both beneficial and costly. This trade-off is pertinent for physicians who must care for patients while maintaining emotional distance to avoid burnout. Prior work using self-report and neurophysiological measures has found mixed evidence for differences in empathy between physicians and nonphysicians. We used implicit measurement and multinomial modeling to examine intentional empathy (IE) and unintentional empathy (UE) for pain among physicians and demographically matched nonphysicians. Relative to nonphysicians, physicians displayed greater ability to judge the painfulness of target experiences (i.e., IE). Contrary to some prior work, however, physicians and nonphysicians displayed comparable spontaneous resonance with distracter experiences (i.e., UE). These findings suggest that physicians may be more likely than nonphysicians to empathize with others’ pain when empathy aligns with their overt goals.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)440-448
Number of pages9
JournalSocial Psychological and Personality Science
Volume10
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - May 1 2019

Fingerprint

Physicians
Pain
Aptitude
Self Report
Patient Care

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Social Psychology
  • Clinical Psychology

Cite this

@article{76af94e808014ee7989afa1db1fafe7d,
title = "Intentional and Unintentional Empathy for Pain Among Physicians and Nonphysicians",
abstract = "Empathy can be both beneficial and costly. This trade-off is pertinent for physicians who must care for patients while maintaining emotional distance to avoid burnout. Prior work using self-report and neurophysiological measures has found mixed evidence for differences in empathy between physicians and nonphysicians. We used implicit measurement and multinomial modeling to examine intentional empathy (IE) and unintentional empathy (UE) for pain among physicians and demographically matched nonphysicians. Relative to nonphysicians, physicians displayed greater ability to judge the painfulness of target experiences (i.e., IE). Contrary to some prior work, however, physicians and nonphysicians displayed comparable spontaneous resonance with distracter experiences (i.e., UE). These findings suggest that physicians may be more likely than nonphysicians to empathize with others’ pain when empathy aligns with their overt goals.",
author = "Spring, {Victoria L.} and Cameron, {Christopher Daryl} and Stephanie McKee and Todd, {Andrew R.}",
year = "2019",
month = "5",
day = "1",
doi = "10.1177/1948550618771890",
language = "English (US)",
volume = "10",
pages = "440--448",
journal = "Social Psychological and Personality Science",
issn = "1948-5506",
publisher = "Sage Periodicals Press",
number = "4",

}

Intentional and Unintentional Empathy for Pain Among Physicians and Nonphysicians. / Spring, Victoria L.; Cameron, Christopher Daryl; McKee, Stephanie; Todd, Andrew R.

In: Social Psychological and Personality Science, Vol. 10, No. 4, 01.05.2019, p. 440-448.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

TY - JOUR

T1 - Intentional and Unintentional Empathy for Pain Among Physicians and Nonphysicians

AU - Spring, Victoria L.

AU - Cameron, Christopher Daryl

AU - McKee, Stephanie

AU - Todd, Andrew R.

PY - 2019/5/1

Y1 - 2019/5/1

N2 - Empathy can be both beneficial and costly. This trade-off is pertinent for physicians who must care for patients while maintaining emotional distance to avoid burnout. Prior work using self-report and neurophysiological measures has found mixed evidence for differences in empathy between physicians and nonphysicians. We used implicit measurement and multinomial modeling to examine intentional empathy (IE) and unintentional empathy (UE) for pain among physicians and demographically matched nonphysicians. Relative to nonphysicians, physicians displayed greater ability to judge the painfulness of target experiences (i.e., IE). Contrary to some prior work, however, physicians and nonphysicians displayed comparable spontaneous resonance with distracter experiences (i.e., UE). These findings suggest that physicians may be more likely than nonphysicians to empathize with others’ pain when empathy aligns with their overt goals.

AB - Empathy can be both beneficial and costly. This trade-off is pertinent for physicians who must care for patients while maintaining emotional distance to avoid burnout. Prior work using self-report and neurophysiological measures has found mixed evidence for differences in empathy between physicians and nonphysicians. We used implicit measurement and multinomial modeling to examine intentional empathy (IE) and unintentional empathy (UE) for pain among physicians and demographically matched nonphysicians. Relative to nonphysicians, physicians displayed greater ability to judge the painfulness of target experiences (i.e., IE). Contrary to some prior work, however, physicians and nonphysicians displayed comparable spontaneous resonance with distracter experiences (i.e., UE). These findings suggest that physicians may be more likely than nonphysicians to empathize with others’ pain when empathy aligns with their overt goals.

UR - http://www.scopus.com/inward/record.url?scp=85064222742&partnerID=8YFLogxK

UR - http://www.scopus.com/inward/citedby.url?scp=85064222742&partnerID=8YFLogxK

U2 - 10.1177/1948550618771890

DO - 10.1177/1948550618771890

M3 - Article

AN - SCOPUS:85064222742

VL - 10

SP - 440

EP - 448

JO - Social Psychological and Personality Science

JF - Social Psychological and Personality Science

SN - 1948-5506

IS - 4

ER -