Calderón-Amor J, Luna-Fernández D, Tadich T . Study of the Levels of Human-Human and Human-Animal Empathy in Veterinary Medical Students from Chile. J Vet Med Educ. 2017 Spring;44(1):179-186

PMID: 28206834


Social relationships are based on our ability to put ourselves in the place of others, and from there to react appropriately and logically. This empathic ability can be extended to other species, based on the human ability to develop techniques to understand and communicate with animals. In education, the benefits of training professionals with ethical and empathic tools are known. Gender, diet, past experiences, and other factors can modify a person's levels of empathy toward humans and animals, and a relationship exists between both types of empathy. The aims of this study were to investigate some determinants of the level of empathy and to gain insight into the possible correlation between human-animal and human-human empathy. For this, the Animal Empathy Scale and the Interpersonal Reactivity Index by Davis were applied through an electronic survey system to freshmen and final-year students (n=452) from five schools of veterinary medicine in Chile. The correlation between the empathy scores of both instruments and their association with individual factors were studied using Spearman's correlation, the Wilcoxon signed-rank test, and the Kruskal-Wallis test. The results suggest that both instruments correlate significantly, and that gender, year of study, diet, and area of interest have a significant association with the score for empathy toward animals. This research shows that individual characteristics and changes that occur during veterinary training can affect students' attitudes toward animals.