Categorizing Empathy Traits
Authors: Ssu Min Chang, Johan Chang
Abstract: During the university stage, students can be exposed to non-major skills and knowledge in a safe learning environment and experience interdisciplinary teamwork. However, interpersonal relationships, internal team attitudes, and other factors can hinder knowledge sharing and learning experiences. Empathy can help teams handle crises in such situations. Empathy, as a personal trait, is often studied by categorizing individuals into "high-level" and "low-level" types. In recent years, some scholars have defined empathy types based on four dimensions: empathic concern (EC), personal distress (PD), fantasy (FN), and perspective taking (PT). However, the classification of empathy traits using this multi-dimensional structure still remains somewhat unclear. This study is part of a series of research on empathy in design education, and in this paper, we aim to explore the classification of empathy traits as a reference for teaching practices. A total of 31 participants were recruited for a 10-day interdisciplinary design workshop. The Interpersonal Reactivity Index (IRI) was used to measure empathy, and correlation and cluster analyses were conducted based on the dimensions of EC, PD, FN, and PT. The research findings revealed PD was negatively correlated PT, and FN was positively correlated with PT. In addition, PD, FN, and PT can serve as clustering indicators for empathy trait types. Based on these indicators, the participants were divided into three groups: the Anxious-Fantasy Type (highest scores in PD and FN; significantly low scores in PT), the Apathetic-Self Type (significantly low scores in three dimensions), and the Rational-Cognitive Type (highest scores in PT and FN; significantly low scores in PD). This study proposes a new classification of empathy traits, which will be further explored in future research related to design education.
Keywords: Empathy, Dispositional empathy, Personality Trait, Design Education, Interdisciplinary Teaching
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