Document Type : Original Article


Clinical Psychology Program, Department of Health Sciences, College of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, Princess Nourah Bint Abdulrahman University, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia


BACKGROUND: Empathy is regarded as a fundamental personal attribute for in-training and inpractice doctors. Several factors may play a significant role to facilitate or prevent the ability of doctors’
empathy toward their patients. The objective of the present study is to investigate the relationship of
empathy with personality traits (extraversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness, neuroticism, and
openness to experience) among undergraduate medical students.
MATERIALS AND METHODS: This study was based on a correlational, cross-sectional design
and was conducted from January 2020 to April 2020. The sample consisted of 301 undergraduate
medical students studying in different medical colleges situated in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Personal
information form, the big-five personality inventory, and the interpersonal reactivity index scales were
administered. Obtained data were analyzed by applying several methods such as mean, standard
deviation, Mann–Whitney U test, Pearson’s correlation coefficient, and multivariable linear regression.
RESULTS: Regression analysis revealed that personality dimensions accounted for 10–19% of
the variance in scores of empathy sub-dimensions of perspective-taking, empathetic concern,
fantasy, and personal distress. Agreeableness was found to be associated with empathetic
concern and perspective-taking. Openness to experience was found to be significantly related to
perspective-taking and fantasy, whereas extraversion was negatively associated with perspectivetaking. Neuroticism had an association with personal distress, empathetic concern, and fantasy.
Additionally, no gender difference was observed and students with people-oriented specialty
preferences showed significantly higher scores on empathy sub-domains than technology-oriented
CONCLUSION: This study confirmed that personality dimensions play a notable role to predict
empathetic behaviors among Saudi undergraduate medical students. This study would help to design
individualized strategies by incorporating personality dimensions in the training program to enhance
empathetic behavior among medical students.


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