American University
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Empathy and intellectual development in students of counseling: A relationship study

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posted on 2023-09-06, 02:54 authored by Christopher Ward Lovell

The purpose of the study was to describe the relationship of empathy to intellectual development in a sample of graduate students of counseling and to draw implications both for the theoretical constructs--empathy (Hogan) and intellectual development (Perry scheme)--and for the education of counselors. The national sample comprised 340 student members of the American Association for Counseling and Development. These student members were surveyed (1990) for seven census characteristics and for the students' scores on two psychological instruments: Hogan's Scale of Empathy, and Moore's Learning Environment Preferences (LEP). Seven hypotheses of relationship were tested using statistical tests for correlation, nonlinearity, and multivariate contrasts. The results showed a significant and positive relationship between empathy and intellectual development. Moreover, empathy showed a patterned relationship to measures of student epistemology (on the LEP) in a way supportive of cognitive developmental theory. The principal implication of the study for theory is that empathy and intellectual development need to be regarded as mutual correlates in the process of human development. For counselor educators, this means that the education of empathy in students of counseling will need to be seen increasingly as an enterprise in facilitating cognitive development rather than as "skills training.". As a result of this study, the two constructs--empathy development and intellectual development--may be now regarded (at least in the social domain) to be describing the same phenomonon. With respect to the education of counselors, a more useful construct may well be "empathic-cognitive" development. Thus conceived, the changes students of counseling go through as they move toward improved ability to understand, with empathy, other persons would be viewed as structural stage changes in thought--that is, as changes in epistemology.



American University




Ph.D. American University 1990.


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