The Impact of Perspective Taking Training in Student Teachers on Unintended Empathy Components

Christoph M. Paulus


Empathy training focuses mainly on improving perspective taking (PT) skills, but rarely considers possible changes in other, affective empathy components. In this study, we aimed to examine for unintended changes in the other empathy components emotional concern, personal distress, and fantasy, some of which were not specifically intended. We used a trait (Saarbrücken Personality Questionnaire for Measuring Empathy) and a state (Jefferson Scale for Empathy - Teacher Version) questionnaire respectively. On the trait measures, only the PT score improved, as it was intended by the training. No significant change in the affective factors occurred. Thus, the training showed no undesirable side effects. Looking at the Jefferson Scale factors related to pedagogical situations, significant changes occurred in the areas of perspective taking, emotional understanding of students, pedagogy more important than empathy, and student-centeredness. Since these are only pedagogically relevant changes in attitudes, this is consistent with the goal of the empathy training. Unwanted side effects were not observed here either.

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