The Jefferson Scale of Physician Empathy: Preliminary Psychometrics and Group Comparisons in Italian Physicians

Di Lillo, Mariangela MD, MHS; Cicchetti, Americo PhD; Scalzo, Alessandra Lo PhD; Taroni, Francesco MD; Hojat, Mohammadreza PhD

Academic Medicine:
doi: 10.1097/ACM.0b013e3181b17b3f

Purpose: To examine the psychometrics of the Jefferson Scale of Physician Empathy (JSPE) among a sample of Italian physicians.

Method: The JSPE was translated into Italian using back-translation procedures to ensure the accuracy of the translation. The translated JSPE was administered to 778 physicians at three hospitals in Rome, Italy in 2002. Individual empathy scores were calculated, as well as descriptive statistics at the item and scale level. Group comparisons of empathy scores were also made among men and women, physicians practicing in medical or surgical specialties, physicians working in different hospitals, and at physicians at various levels of career rank.

Results: Results are reported for 289 participants who completed the JSPE. Item-total score correlations were all positive and statistically significant. The prominent component of “perspective taking,” which is the most important underlying construct of the scale, emerged in the factor analysis of the JSPE and was similar in both Italian and American samples. However, more factors appeared among Italian physicians, indicating that the underlying construct of empathy may be more complex among Italians. Cronbach coefficient alpha was .85. None of the group differences observed among physicians classified by gender, hospital of practice, specialty, or level of career rank reached statistical significance.

Conclusions: Findings generally provide support for the construct validity and reliability of the Italian version of the JSPE. Further research is needed to determine whether the lack of statistically significant differences in empathy by gender and specialty is related to cultural peculiarities, the translation of the scale, or sampling.

Author Information

Dr. Di Lillo is a specialist in internal medicine and visiting research fellow, Center for Research in Medical Education and Health Care, Jefferson Medical College of Thomas Jefferson University, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Dr. Cicchetti is professor of health economics, Universita’ Cattolica Sacro Cuore, Faculty of Economics, Rome, Italy.

Dr. Lo Scalzo is a researcher, Agenzia Nazionale per i Servizi Sanitari Regionali, Rome, Italy.

Dr. Taroni is associate professor of medicine and health policy, Universita’ di Bologna, Department of Medicine and Public Health, Bologna, Italy.

Dr. Hojat is research professor of psychiatry and human behavior and director, Jefferson Longitudinal Study, Center for Research in Medical Education and Health Care, Jefferson Medical College of Thomas Jefferson University, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Correspondence should be addressed to Dr. Di Lillo, Jefferson Medical College of Thomas Jefferson University, 1025 Walnut Street, Philadelphia, PA 19107; telephone: (215) 955-9459; fax: (215) 923-6939; e-mail: (

Editor’s Note: Commentaries on this article appear on pages 1174 and 1177.

© 2009 Association of American Medical Colleges