Relationship between empathy and motivation in undergraduate medical students

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Undergraduate medical education is important for encouraging empathy which is a critical component of patient-physician communication. Studies show a decline in empathy once medical students enter their clinical years. Since empathy is also a "motivated phenomenon", the current study aims to explore the relationship between empathy and students' motivation types. Methods: This cross-sectional study used a total sampling approach to recruit medical students in years 1-5. The Jefferson Scale of Physician Empathy (JSPE) was used to measure empathy in medical students and the Academic Motivation Scale (AMS) was utilised to assess student motivation. Following descriptive analyses, the differences in empathy scores based on motivation type was assessed using Kruskal-Wallis test and post-hoc Mann-Whitney test. Furthermore, the Spearman's rank correlation analysis was completed to assess the relationship between students' empathy and motivation type. The analyses were completed for each of year 1-5. Results: A total of 827 completed questionnaires (71.3% response rate) were analysed, showing strong internal consistency. Most students displayed high intrinsic and high controlled motivation. Motivation type was found to be consistently associated with empathy. Conclusions: The present study highlights the association of motivation with empathy in undergraduate medical students with an increasingly low empathy score the more the motivation profile is towards being Low Intrinsic and Low Controlled.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberDoc43
Pages (from-to)Doc43
Number of pages16
JournalGMS Journal for Medical Education
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2020


  • empathy
  • motivation
  • undergraduate medical students


Dive into the research topics of 'Relationship between empathy and motivation in undergraduate medical students'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this