Empathy among students in engineering programs

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Engineers face challenges when they are to manage project groups and be leaders for organisations because
such positions demand skills in social competence and empathy. Previous studies have shown that engineers
have low degrees of social competence skills. In this study, the level of empathy as measured by the four
subscales of the Interpersonal Reactivity Index, perspective taking, fantasy, empathic distress and empathic
concern, among engineering students was compared to students in health care profession programmes.
Participants were undergraduate students at Linköping University, 365 students from four different health
care profession programmes and 115 students from two different engineering programmes. When the
empathy measures were corrected for effects of sex, engineering students from one of the programmes had
lower empathy than psychology and social worker students on the fantasy and perspective-taking subscales.
These results raise questions regarding opportunities for engineering students to develop their empathic
abilities. It is important that engineering students acquire both theoretical and practical knowledge and
skills regarding empathy.


External organisations
  • Linköping University
  • McGill University
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Psychology
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)427-435
JournalEuropean Journal of Engineering Education
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2012
Publication categoryResearch
Externally publishedYes