Interpersonal Relationships, Cognitive Orientation and Medical Problem-Solving: The Effects of Empathy Priming on Medical-Problem Solving and Interpersonal Behavior Open Access

Kassel, Eva (2015)

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The current study evaluates the literature between the effect of an empathy prime on cognition and pro-social behavior in students pursuing healthcare careers. First, participants were asked to fill out a set of questionnaires included measures of interpersonal relationships, dispositional empathy and completed a scramble-sentence task that either contained or did not contain the empathy prime. Second, participants were asked to go into the other room to solve a medical decision task; this part of the study also involved a confederate in the room who presented a minor stressful scenario to the participant. Hypothesis 1A tested whether those with secure attachment orientations were more likely to pursue primary over non-primary healthcare careers than those with insecure attachment styles. Hypothesis 1B predicted that those with low levels of anxiety and avoidance, and those with a secure categorical attachment style, would have higher scores across a measure of dispositional empathy. Hypothesis 2 predicted that those who received the empathy prime would receive higher verbal and non- verbal pro-social ratings and in the medical decision-making task scores. Hypothesis 3 evaluated whether attachment would moderate the effect of the prime, predicting that those with secure attachment orientations in the empathy prime group would receive higher verbal and non-verbal pro-social ratings and medical decision-making task scores. Sub analysis tested whether the four subscales of dispositional empathy would moderate the empathy prime. Significant differences were found showing that greater avoidance is related to lower empathic concern.

Table of Contents

Introduction 1

Attachment Style 2

Attachment Style, Physicians and Patient-Provider Relationships 7

Attachment Style, Caregiving and Empathy 9

Statement of the Problem 12

Hypotheses 13

Methods 14

Participants 14

Procedure 15

Measures 17

Data Analytic Strategy 21

Results 21

Discussion 26

Significance of Findings 31

Limitations and Suggestions for future research 32

Conclusion 34

References 36

Tables 41

Appendices 46

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