Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Engineers less empathetic

Are engineering students less empathetic than students in the caring professions? Yes, the findings from a study performed at Linköping University indicate that this is the case.
The study comprises more than 200 students from six different study programs and was carried out by Chato Rasoal, a researcher in psychology, together with two colleagues.

The researchers measured empathy with a well-established questionnaire that shows, for example, the degree of imagination, the ability to assume the perspective of others, and whether the subject cares about others, along with the subject´s own worries and anxiety.

– Empathy can have both a cognitive and an emotional aspect, explains Chato Rasoal. The capacity to see things from the point of view of others is primarily cognitive, while caring about others is a more emotional component.

Earlier research has shown that engineers have a lower degree of empathy than future doctors and nurses. This may seem perfectly natural, after all, you don´t need much empathy to work with machines and calculations, do you? But Chato Rasoal doesn´t agree.

– Advanced engineers often take on leading positions in companies, where they have to be able to lead teams involving many co-workers. This requires both good communication skills and social competence. In today´s global business world you also need intercultural competence, an ability to communicate and collaborate with people from entirely different cultures.

The students responses evinced clear differences between caring-profession students and engineers. The latter had considerably lower scores. However, the differences were mitigated when the data was adjusted for gender. It´s well known that women are more empathetic than men.

Two groups of engineers participated, students of computer engineering and applied physics. For the latter a marked difference compared with caring students remained even after adjusting for gender differences.
For computer engineering students, the differences were largely eliminated. The researchers have a theory about why: the computer engineering students are taught with PBL, problem-based learning, which is not the case for the applied physics students. Chato Rasoal believes this can influence the degree of empathy.

– In problem-based learning you work in groups a lot. You have to be able to listen to others and accept other people´s thoughts and expressions of emotions. Otherwise it won´t work.?

In a currently ongoing study they want to see if this theory can be confirmed. For five semesters they have followed students of computer engineering to see whether PBL affects their capacity for empathy. The data are now being processed.

The findings from the first study have been presented in an article in European Journal of Engineering Education, link: Empathy among students in engineering programmes.

Contact Chato Rasoal, phone: +46 (0)13-286803,

Anika Agebjörn | idw
Further information:

More articles from Social Sciences:

nachricht New population data provide insight on aging, migration
31.08.2016 | International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)

nachricht PRB projects world population rising 33 percent by 2050 to nearly 10 billion
25.08.2016 | Population Reference Bureau

All articles from Social Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

Im Focus: New Products - Highlights of COMPAMED 2016

COMPAMED has become the leading international marketplace for suppliers of medical manufacturing. The trade fair, which takes place every November and is co-located to MEDICA in Dusseldorf, has been steadily growing over the past years and shows that medical technology remains a rapidly growing market.

In 2016, the joint pavilion by the IVAM Microtechnology Network, the Product Market “High-tech for Medical Devices”, will be located in Hall 8a again and will...

Im Focus: Ultra-thin ferroelectric material for next-generation electronics

'Ferroelectric' materials can switch between different states of electrical polarization in response to an external electric field. This flexibility means they show promise for many applications, for example in electronic devices and computer memory. Current ferroelectric materials are highly valued for their thermal and chemical stability and rapid electro-mechanical responses, but creating a material that is scalable down to the tiny sizes needed for technologies like silicon-based semiconductors (Si-based CMOS) has proven challenging.

Now, Hiroshi Funakubo and co-workers at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, in collaboration with researchers across Japan, have conducted experiments to...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

Resolving the mystery of preeclampsia

21.10.2016 | Health and Medicine

Stanford researchers create new special-purpose computer that may someday save us billions

21.10.2016 | Information Technology

From ancient fossils to future cars

21.10.2016 | Materials Sciences

More VideoLinks >>>