How Is Empathy Correlated with the Big 5 Personality Traits?


How Is Empathy Correlated with the Big 5 Personality Traits?



Faculty Mentor

Heidi Dempsey, Psychology


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9:45-9:55am | Houston Cole Library, 11th Floor


In this study, we correlated the Ferguson Empathy Scale (FES) and the empathic concern and perspective-taking scales of the Interpersonal Reactivity Index (IRI) with the Big Five Inventory (BFI) (John et al., 1991). Consistent with previous research looking at empathy and the Big 5, we expected the strongest relationship to be with agreeableness followed by openness (Antinori et al., 2017; Del Barrio et al., 2004). This is because empathic people care about others and are also more motivated to explore the world visually and cognitively (e.g., Koivisto et al., 2021). Although other studies have occasionally found correlations with the other Big 5 factors of extraversion, neuroticism, and conscientiousness, these correlations appear small and sporadic. Thus, we did not predict empathy to be correlated with these scales. Undergraduate students (N = 426) completed the FES, IRI, and Big Five Inventory for extra credit. Overall, most identified as female/woman (67%), were first-year students (62.4%), and white/Caucasian (80.3%). FES empathy, IRI empathic concern, and IRI perspective-taking were most strongly related to agreeableness and openness but unrelated to extraversion, neuroticism, and conscientiousness. Thus, the hypotheses were supported and my discussion will explore these ideas further along with possible limitations.


student research, psychology


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Psychological Phenomena and Processes

How Is Empathy Correlated with the Big 5 Personality Traits?