Empathy and reading of narrative fiction among community college students
A non-experimental correlational design was used to explore whether relationships exist between empathy and reading of narrative fiction among students enrolled in composition at a community college in the Midwest. Empathy was measured using the Interpersonal Reactivity Index (IRI) developed by M. H. Davis in 1980. Four dimensions of empathy were also measured using the IRI: personal distress, perspective-taking, fantasy, and empathic concern. Reading of narrative fiction was measured using the Author Recognition Test (ART) developed by K. E. Stanovich and R. F. West (1989). A Pearson product-moment correlation test was used to obtain a correlation coefficient for empathy and reading of narrative fiction. Results also included correlation coeffecients for each dimension of empathy and reading of narrative fiction. Two-sample t tests were used to generate p-values for empathy and gender, reading of narrative fiction and gender, empathy and enrollment in developmental or first-year composition, and reading of narrative fiction and enrollment in developmental or first-year composition. An analysis of variance (ANOVA) was conducted and p-values were generated for empathy and age as well as reading of narrative fiction and age. Results indicate that statistically significant correlations do not exist between empathy and reading of narrative fiction. Statistically significant correlations exist between the empathy dimensions of fantasy and personal distress with reading of narrative fiction but not between the empathy dimensions of perspective-taking and empathic concern with reading of narrative fiction. Mean scores for empathy and four dimensions of empathy were higher for women than for men; the difference was statistically significant. Implications for practice are that educators need to understand empathy to support students' social development, which is related to academic success. Measuring students' empathy with the IRI could provide data that informs educators' decisions about incorporating empathy training into curricula and which empathy dimensions to emphasize during empathy training from one class to the next.
0529: Special education
0535: Reading instruction