Challenging the clinically-situated emotion-deficient version of empathy within medicine and medical education research

Barret Michalec, Frederic W. Hafferty

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

In this paper, we argue that the notion of a clinically-situated empathy (e.g. physician empathy), is potentially problematic as it perpetuates an emotion-deficient version of empathy within medicine and medicine education research. Utilizing classic and contemporary empathy theory from various social science disciplines, we discuss how empathy in the general sense differs conceptually from clinically-situated empathy—paying particular attention to the role of emotional contagion. To highlight this contrast, we draw upon Hojat et al.’s model of physician empathy and how this body of work reflects broader medical-cultural norms that problematize the role and impact of emotions within the clinical encounter. Alternatively, we present a more encompassing model of empathy drawing upon the fields of social-psychology and social-neuroscience in order to bring the notion of “feeling with” and emotional contagion more specifically, into medical education, medical education research, and medicine more generally.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalSocial Theory and Health
DOIs
StateAccepted/In press - 2021

Keywords

  • Emotional Contagion
  • Empathy
  • Medical Education
  • Medicine

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Sociology and Political Science

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