Empathy, Self-Reflection, and Curriculum Choice

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Suely Grosseman
Mohammadreza Hojat
Pamela M. Duke
Stewart Mennin
Steven Rosenzweig
Dennis Novack


We administered the Jefferson Scale of Empathy and the Groningen Reflection Ability Scale to 61 of 64 entering medical students who self-selected a problem-based learning curricular track and to 163 of 198 who self-selected a lecture-based track (response rates of 95.3% and 82.3%, respectively, with no statistically significant differences in mean age or sex). Mean empathy and self-reflection ability scores were significantly higher among students who chose problem-based learning. Women scored higher than men in empathy. Women choosing problem-based learning had the highest empathy scores. Studies comparing students’ performance and achievements in different curricular tracks should consider differences in personal characteristics such as capability for empathy and self-reflection that may cause students to prefer one pedagogic approach over another and affect their outcomes.

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