Jakob Håkansson, Associate professor of psychology, Empathy researcher

My primary research interest is empathy. I received a Ph. D. in psychology at Stockholm University and then completed a post-doctoral fellowship at Kansas University. Since 2006 I have a position at Mälardalen University as a senior lecturer.


My publications in DiVA

  • "Same same or different?" A review of reviews of person-centered and patient-centered care

    Objective: To provide a synthesis of already synthesized literature on person-centered care and patient-centered care in order to identify similarities and differences between the two concepts. Methods: A synthesis of reviews was conducted to locate synthesized literature published between January 2000 and March 2017. A total of 21 articles deemed relevant to this overview were synthesized using a thematic analysis. Results: The analysis resulted in nine themes present in person-centered as well as in patient-centered care: (1) empathy, (2), respect (3), engagement, (4), relationship, (5) communication, (6) shared decision-making, (7) holistic focus, (8), individualized focus, and (9) coordinated care. The analysis also revealed that the goal of person-centered care is a meaningful life while the goal of patient-centered care is a functional life. Conclusions: While there are a number of similarities between the two concepts, the goals for person-centered and patient-centered care differ. The similarities are at the surface and there are important differences when the concepts are regarded in light of their different goals. Practice implications: Clarification of the concepts may assist practitioners to develop the relevant aspects of care. Person-centered care broadens and extends the perspective of patient-centered care by considering the whole life of the patient.

  • Does Feeling Empathy Lead to Compassion Fatigue or Compassion Satisfaction? : The Role of Time Perspective

    Research has shown that feeling empathy sometimes leads to compassion fatigue and sometimes to compassion satisfaction. In three studies, participants recalled an instance when they felt empathy in order to assess the role time perspective plays in how empathizers perceive the consequences of empathy. Study 1 revealed that college students perceive empathy as having more negative consequences in the short term, but more positive consequences in the long term. Study 2 showed that service industry professionals perceive the consequences of feeling empathy for customers who felt bad as less negative, and the consequences of feeling empathy for people who felt good as less positive, in the long as opposed to the short term. Because Studies 1 and 2 confounded time perspective with event specificity a third study was conducted in which event specificity was held constant across time perspectives. The same pattern of results emerged. The results of these studies indicate that perceptions of the effects of feeling empathy, whether positive or negative, become less extreme over time. These findings shed light on the relation between empathy and compassion fatigue and satisfaction by suggesting that situations that initially are experienced as stressful can over time make the empathizer stronger.

  • Older persons' expressions of emotional cues and concerns during home care visits. Application of the Verona coding definitions of emotional sequences (VR-CoDES) in home care

    Objective: This study aims to a) explore to what extent older persons express emotional cues and concerns during home care visits; b) describe what cues and concerns these older persons expressed, and c) explore who initiated these cues and concerns. Methods: A descriptive and cross-sectional study was conducted. Data consisted of 188 audio recorded home care visits with older persons and registered nurses or nurse assistants, coded with the Verona coding definitions on emotional sequences (VR-CoDES). Results: Emotional expressions of cues and concerns occurred in 95 (51%) of the 188 recorded home care visits. Most frequent were implicit expressions of cues (n = 292) rather than explicit concerns (n = 24). Utterances with hints to hidden concerns (63,9%, n = 202) were most prevalent, followed by vague or unspecific expressions of emotional worries (15,8%, n = 50). Most of these were elicited by the nursing staff (63%, n = 200). Conclusion: Emotional needs expressed by the older persons receiving home care were mainly communicated implicitly. To be attentive to such vaguely expressed emotions may demand nursing staff to be sensitive and open. Practice implications: The VR-CoDES can be applied on audio recorded home care visits to analyse verbal and emotional communication, and may allow comparative research. (C) 2016 Elsevier Ireland Ltd. All rights reserved.

  • Registered Nurses' and nurse assistants' responses to older persons' expressions of emotional needs in home care

    Aim: This study aims to explore nurse assistants' and Registered Nurses' responses to older persons' expressions of emotional needs during home care visits. Background: Communication is a central aspect of care. Older persons might express different emotions and needs during home care visits and such expressions can be challenging to respond to. Little is known about communication in home care or nursing staff responses to older persons' expressed emotional needs. Design: Descriptive, cross-sectional design on nursing staff responses to older persons' negative emotions in home care. Methods: Collected data consisted of audio recordings of home care visits between older persons and nursing staff. Data were collected between August 2014-November 2015. The nursing staff responses to older persons' negative emotions in the communication were analysed with the Verona Coding Definitions of Emotional Sequences (VR-CoDES). Results: The nursing staff most often give non-explicit responses, providing space for further disclosure of older persons' expressed negative emotions. Such responses were more frequent if the nursing staff had elicited the older persons' expressions of a negative emotion than if such expressions were elicited by the older persons themselves. Most frequent types of responses were backchannel, active invitation or information advice. Conclusion: The nursing staff responses were mainly non-explicit responses providing space for older persons to tell more about their experiences. Such responses can be discussed in terms of person-centred communication and is important for the comfort of emotional concerns.

  • Reducing Sex Differences in Children’s Empathy for Animals Through a Training Intervention

    ABSTRACT: Humane education programs designed to increase children’s empathy for animals are becoming more common. A quasi-experiment tested the effectiveness of one such program by comparing 80 children who had completed the program with a control group of 57 children who had not. The children read a story involving an injured dog and rated the degree of empathic concern they felt for him. The results showed that girls tended to express more empathy for a dog than did boys, but this difference was not significant for children who underwent an animal empathy training program. This suggests that humane education programs can reduce sex differences by increasing boys’ empathy. 

  • Empati som känsla, förståelse och omsorg

    Vanligt förekommande komponenter i empatidefinitioner är bland annat känsla, förståelse och omsorg. Syftet med den här artikeln är att granska närvaron och frånvaron av dessa tre komponenter i nio inflytelserika empatiforskares empatidefinitioner. De nio är Rogers, Kohut, Hoffman, Eisenberg, Batson, Ickes, Davis, Decety och Singer. Granskningen visar att känsla finns med i åtta av definitionerna, förståelse i sju och omsorg i två. Det föreslås att framtida forskning bör försöka närma sig konsensus om en empatidefinition.

  • The nature of empathy

    This paper addresses the question of the nature of empathy, and attempts to develop a unified understanding of empathy, and thereby overcome the split perspective that is present in current literature. Based on previous definitions, I present my own account of empathy as feeling the other’s feeling. In an analysis of this new definition, empathy is characterized as feeling with the two constituents of understanding and care. Empathic understanding ensures that empathic care will lead to appropriate actions. A consequence of describing empathy as a feeling with the two constituents of understanding and care is that we are not forced to choose between the two main tracks in the empathy literature, empathy as understanding and empathy as care, but are instead at ease with both sides.

  • Var är vi och vart ska vi ta vägen?
  • Samtida forskning om empati i psykologi
  • Promoting empathy in social care for older people

    Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to identify connections between empathy and social care and to describe aspects of empathy in social care work, by bringing together research from different fields.

    Design/methodology/approach – Five doctoral theses which discussed empathy among care workers of older people in Sweden were analysed as a group. The theses had been published over the period 1996 to 2007. Methodologically, the examination underpinned an interpretive content analysis.

    Findings – The meta-analysis revealed conflicting feelings among care workers. Most experienced frustration when they were not able to express empathy in their working practices. Empathy was typically hindered by lack of time, care workers' own needs, and inflexible home care systems. However, a key element of the job-satisfaction reported by care workers appeared to be its empathic nature. Most care workers perceive encounters with older people as opportunities to respond empathically rather than indifferently. The implications of these findings are discussed.

    Originality/value – The study is an overview that attempts to build a bridge across the two concepts, social care and empathy. The main strength of this analysis is its originality of approach undertaking a specific literature review and reflecting on a subject that has not previously been explored in the Swedish context.

  • Who cares about others? : Empathic self-efficacy as an antecedent to prosocial behavior

    Two studies tested associations among self-efficacy and prosocial behavior. In Study 1 wemeasured academic self-efficacy, emotional self-efficacy and self-reported prosocial behavior.The study showed that academic but not emotional self-efficacy was positively correlated withprosocial behavior. Study 1 included only self-oriented emotions, and the absence of empathicemotions may explain the lack of association between emotional self-efficacy and prosocialbehavior. In Study 2 we included empathic as well as self-oriented emotions, because previousresearch (C. D. Batson, 1991) has shown that empathic emotions generate altruistic helping. Asexpected, empathic self-efficacy had a positive association with prosocial behavior. Empathicself-efficacy appears to be an important, largely overlooked antecedent to prosocial behavior.

  • Toward a conceptualization of ethnocultural empathy

    Although a number of theoretical frameworks have been developed in previous empathy research, the extent to which these frameworks consider cultural and ethnic aspects is limited. This literature study reviews the most influential frameworks of general and ethnocultural empathy. The core components of ethnocultural empathy are identified as well as factors facilitating empathy for persons from other cultures. Most notably, the realization that people in other cultures have similar worries and goals should facilitate ethnocultural empathy, in both informal and professional contexts. This analysis can provide useful insights and tools for practitioners working with patients and clients from cultures other than their own. © 2011 Journal of Social, Evolutionary, and Cultural Psychology.

  • "You are weeping for that which has been your delight" : To experience and recover from grief

    To explore how people experience grief and what factors are perceived as facilitating successful grief work, a survey was distributed to people who had completed a grief recovery course. The results showed that emotions, cognitions, physical expressions, and behaviors all characterize grief, but that emotions are the most central component. The course brought relief and was regarded most favorably by those having at least 1 year between the grief trigger event and participation in the course. Writing a letter in whichcourse participants express their feelings to the loss object was perceived as the most successful aspect of the course. The letter might help with grief recovery by bringing aspects that have not been dealt with into conscious awareness.

  • A comparison of empathy for humans and empathy for animals

    Although there is a substantial body of research on inter-human empathy and inter-animal empathy, there is a dearth of research comparing humans’ empathic reactions to humans and animals. To address this issue, three experiments were conducted in which participants read a scenario about a human or animal abuse victim in need of medical attention, and indicated the degree of empathy they felt on an emotional response scale. In Experiment 1, women felt significantly more empathy for animals than humans, whereas men tended to express more empathy for humans than for animals. In Experiment 2, adult women expressed the same degree of empathy for a child as for a puppy. Similarly, in Experiment 3, adult men and women expressed the same degree of empathy for a baby as for a puppy. Overall, results indicated that people feel at least as much empathy for animals as for humans. We suggest that an animal target elicits a great deal of empathy partly because it is perceived as not being responsible for having caused the need situation. Future research will show whether empathy felt for animals translates to prosocial behavior toward them as well.

  • "Ive also experienced loss and fear" : Effects of previous similar experience on empathy

    Although it is frequently argued that empathy is increased by similar experiences, this idea has rarely been tested. This study investigated the relationship between empathy and prior similar experience. Participants read four different stories and rated the degree of empathy they felt. They also reported the extent to which they had prior similar experience of the events in the stories. We found that these self-reports of prior similar experience increased empathy for the persons in the stories. Similar experience may be an important situational antecedent for feeling empathy for another person. Pointing out similarities among experiences may be a fruitful means of training empathy.

  • An additional antecedent of empathic concern : Valuing the welfare of the person in need

    Two experiments examined the role of valuing the welfare of a person in need as an antecedent of empathic concern. Specifically, these experiments explored the relation of such valuing to a well-known antecedent--perspective taking. In Experiment 1, both perspective taking and valuing were manipulated, and each independently increased empathic concern, which, in turn, increased helping behavior. In Experiment 2, only valuing was manipulated. Manipulated valuing increased measured perspective taking and, in part as a result, increased empathic concern, which, in turn, increased helping. Valuing appears to be an important, largely overlooked, situational antecedent of feeling empathy for a person in need.

  • Empati : Att uppleva främmande upplevelser

    Filosofen Edith Stein (1891-1942) definierade empati som ”upplevelsen av främmande medvetande överhuvudtaget”. Vad kännetecknar en sådan empatisk upplevelse? I den här artikeln analyseras empati med utgångspunkt i Edith Steins definition. Efter att ha granskat Edith Steins definition av empati försöker jag att komplettera och precisera denna: Först modifieras Steins definition ”upplevelsen av främmande medvetande överhuvudtaget” till ”upplevelsen av främmande upplevelse”. Genom att sedan analysera begreppet upplevelse vidare, bortom vad Stein själv gjorde, föreslås att empati innebär att förstå och bry sig om vad någon annan förstår och bryr sig om. Vidare argumenteras för att minne (inlevelse med sitt eget förflutna) och förväntning (inlevelse med sin egen framtid) är processer som också innebär att uppleva främmande upplevelser och därmed också kan beskrivas som empati.

    Avslutningsvis föreslås att empati spelar en central roll inom etiken.

  • Empathy and viewing the other as a subject

    Empathy and viewing another person as a subject rather than an object are often associated in theoretical contexts, but empirical research of the relation is scarce. The purpose of the present research was to investigate the relationship between subject/object view and empathy. In Study 1, participants watched film clips and indicated their empathy for specific characters in the clips, as well as the extent to which they saw these persons as subjects and objects. The subject/object view explained some, but not all, of the differences in empathy, which raised the question of what else accounts for differences in empathy. A second study was conducted to investigate whether the difficulty of the other's situation also contributes. In Study 2, another group watched the film clips and rated the difficulty of the film character's situations in addition to empathy and subject/object view. The results of Study 2 revealed that subject view/object and perceived difficulty together explain a substantial part of differences in empathy. It was concluded that empathy is evoked primarily when a person in difficulty is viewed as a subject.

  • Exploring the phenomenon of empathy

    Although empathy is the phenomenon that connects otherwise isolated individuals, knowledge concerning the nature of this phenomenon is still scarce. This thesis presents three studies on empathy based on qualitative and quantitative data. In Study 1, narrative accounts of empathy situations were collected to identify constituents that exist in both empathizers’ and targets’ experiences of empathy. From both perspectives, the constituents of empathy included the empathizer understanding the target, the target experiencing one or more emotions, the empathizer perceiving a similarity between what the target is experiencing and something the empathizer has experienced earlier, and the empathizer being concerned for the target’s well-being. Similarity of experience occurs at different levels of abstraction. Study 2 consisted of three experiments exploring the role of a person’s actions in how empathetic the person is perceived as being. In the experiments participants read different versions of an empathy story. The results suggested that action is crucial in the experience of empathy from both empathizer’s and target’s perspectives, as well as from the perspective of an unspecified observer. Study 3 explored in two experiments how empathy is related to viewing another individual as a subject/object. The results revealed that subject view and perceived difficulty of the person’s situation together explain a considerable part of differences in empathy. The empirical findings are discussed in a broader context of altruism, morality, similarity of experience, and foreign experience.

  • Empathy as an interpersonal phenomenon

    The purpose of this study was to find the constituents of empathizers' and targets' experiences of empathy. We analyzed 28 empathizers' and 28 targets' narrative accounts of situations when they had experienced empathy. From both perspectives, the constituents of empathy included that (1) the empathizer understands the target's situation and emotions, (2) the target experiences one or more emotions, (3) the empathizer perceives a similarity between what the target is experiencing and something the empathizer has experienced previously, and (4) the empathizer is concerned for the target's well-being. The data suggested that actions associated with the fourth constituent - concern - make empathy an interpersonal phenomenon.

  • The role of action in empathy from the perspective of the empathizer and the target

    Three experiments explored the role of a person's actions on how empathetic the person is perceived to be from the perspective of an unspecified observer (Study 1) and from the empathizer's and the target's perspectives (Studies 2 and 3). In each experiment, undergraduates read different versions of a story about a boss who fires an employee and afterwards rated the boss' empathy. The results of the three experiments suggested that action is crucial in the experience of empathy from both empathizer's and target's perspectives (Studies 2 and 3), as well as from the perspective of an unspecified observer (Study 1). It is concluded that the convergence between the empathizer and the target on the importance of action in empathy can be understood in terms of empathy being an interpersonal phenomenon.

  • A positive tone and socio-emotional talk : Exploring person-centered aspects of home care communication
  • Emotional communication with older people : A cross-sectional study of home care