Empathy
Overview
 
Empathy is the capacity to recognize and, to some extent, share feelings (such as sadness or happiness) that are being experienced by another sapient or semi-sapient being. Someone may need to have a certain amount of empathy before they are able to feel compassion
Compassion
Compassion is a virtue — one in which the emotional capacities of empathy and sympathy are regarded as a part of love itself, and a cornerstone of greater social interconnection and humanism — foundational to the highest principles in philosophy, society, and personhood.There is an aspect of...

. The English word was coined in 1909 by E.B. Titchener as an attempt to translate the German word "Einfühlungsvermögen", a new phenomenon explored at the end of 19th century mainly by Theodor Lipps
Theodor Lipps
Theodor Lipps was a German philosopher. Lipps was one of the most influential German university professors of his time, attracting many students from other countries. Lipps was very concerned with conceptions of art and the aesthetic, focusing much of his philosophy around such issues...

.
Encyclopedia
Empathy is the capacity to recognize and, to some extent, share feelings (such as sadness or happiness) that are being experienced by another sapient or semi-sapient being. Someone may need to have a certain amount of empathy before they are able to feel compassion
Compassion
Compassion is a virtue — one in which the emotional capacities of empathy and sympathy are regarded as a part of love itself, and a cornerstone of greater social interconnection and humanism — foundational to the highest principles in philosophy, society, and personhood.There is an aspect of...

. The English word was coined in 1909 by E.B. Titchener as an attempt to translate the German word "Einfühlungsvermögen", a new phenomenon explored at the end of 19th century mainly by Theodor Lipps
Theodor Lipps
Theodor Lipps was a German philosopher. Lipps was one of the most influential German university professors of his time, attracting many students from other countries. Lipps was very concerned with conceptions of art and the aesthetic, focusing much of his philosophy around such issues...

. It was later re-translated into the German language (Germanized) into "Empathie", and is still in use there.

Etymology

The English word is derived from the Greek
Greek language
Greek is an independent branch of the Indo-European family of languages. Native to the southern Balkans, it has the longest documented history of any Indo-European language, spanning 34 centuries of written records. Its writing system has been the Greek alphabet for the majority of its history;...

 word ἐμπάθεια (empatheia), "physical affection, passion, partiality" which comes from ἐν (en), "in, at" + πάθος (pathos
Pathos
Pathos represents an appeal to the audience's emotions. Pathos is a communication technique used most often in rhetoric , and in literature, film and other narrative art....

), "passion" or "suffering". The term was adapted by Hermann Lotze and Robert Vischer
Robert Vischer
Robert Vischer was a German philosopher who invented the term Einfühlung , which was to be promoted by Theodor Lipps, Freud's admired philosopher.-Vischer’s use of Einfühlung:...

 to create the German word Einfühlung ("feeling into"), which was translated by Edward B. Titchener
Edward B. Titchener
Edward Bradford Titchener, D.Sc., Ph.D., LL.D., Litt.D. was a British psychologist who studied under Wilhelm Wundt for several years. Titchener is best known for creating his version of psychology that described the structure of the mind; structuralism...

 into the English term empathy.

Alexithymia
Alexithymia
Alexithymia from the Ancient Greek words λέξις and θυμός modified by an alpha-privative—literally "without words for emotions"—is a term coined by psychotherapist Peter Sifneos in 1973 to describe a state of deficiency in understanding, processing, or describing...

from the Ancient Greek
Ancient Greek
Ancient Greek is the stage of the Greek language in the periods spanning the times c. 9th–6th centuries BC, , c. 5th–4th centuries BC , and the c. 3rd century BC – 6th century AD of ancient Greece and the ancient world; being predated in the 2nd millennium BC by Mycenaean Greek...

 words λέξις (lexis) and θύμος (thumos
Thumos
Thumos is an Ancient Greek word expressing the concept of "spiritedness" . The word indicates a physical association with breath or blood. The word is also used to express the human desire for recognition.In Homer's works, thumos was used to denote emotions, desire, or an internal urge...

) modified by an alpha-privative
Privative a
In Ancient Greek grammar, privative a is the prefix a-  that expresses negation or absence . It is derived from a Proto-Indo-European syllabic nasal *, the zero ablaut grade of the negation *ne, i.e. /n/ used as a vowel...

—literally "without words for emotions"—is a term to describe a state of deficiency in understanding, processing, or describing emotions in oneself.

Theorists and definition

Empathy is an ability with many different definitions. They cover a broad spectrum, ranging from caring for other people and having a desire to help them, to experiencing emotions that match another person's emotions, to knowing what the other person is thinking or feeling, to blurring the line between self and other. Below are definitions of empathy:
  • Daniel Batson
    Daniel Batson
    C. Daniel Batson is an American social psychologist. He holds both doctoral degrees in Theology and Psychology . He obtained his doctorate under John Darley and has taught at the University of Kansas...

    : "A motivation oriented towards the other."
  • D. M. Berger: "The capacity to know emotionally what another is experiencing from within the frame of reference of that other person, the capacity to sample the feelings of another or to put one's self in another's shoes."
  • Jean Decety
    Jean Decety
    Jean Decety is a neuroscientist and an internationally recognized expert on cognitive neuroscience and social neuroscience. His research focuses on the neurobiological mechanisms underpinning social cognition, particularly empathy, sympathy, emotional self-regulation and more generally...

    : "A sense of similarity in feelings experienced by the self and the other, without confusion between the two individuals."
  • Frans de Waal
    Frans de Waal
    Fransiscus Bernardus Maria de Waal, PhD , is a Dutch primatologist and ethologist. He is the Charles Howard Candler professor of Primate Behavior in the Emory University psychology department in Atlanta, Georgia, and director of the Living Links Center at the Yerkes National Primate Research...

    : "The capacity to (a) be affected by and share the emotional state of another, (b) assess the reasons for the other’s state, and (c) identify with the other, adopting his or her perspective. This definition extends beyond what exists in many animals, but the term “empathy” … applies even if only criterion (a) is met."
  • Nancy Eisenberg: "An affective response that stems from the apprehension or comprehension of another's emotional state or condition, and that is similar to what the other person is feeling or would be expected to feel."
  • R. R. Greenson: To empathize means to share, to experience the feelings of another person.
  • Alvin Goldman: "The ability to put oneself into the mental shoes of another person to understand her emotions and feelings."
  • Martin Hoffman: any process where the attended perception of the object’s state generates a state in the subject that is more applicable to the object’s state or situation than to the subject’s own prior state or situation.
  • William Ickes: A complex form of psychological inference in which observation, memory, knowledge, and reasoning are combined to yield insights into the thoughts and feelings of others.
  • Heinz Kohut
    Heinz Kohut
    Heinz Kohut was an Austrian-born American psychoanalyst best known for his development of Self psychology, an influential school of thought within psychodynamic/psychoanalytic theory which helped transform the modern practice of analytic and dynamic treatment approaches.-Early life:Kohut was born...

    : Empathy is the capacity to think and feel oneself into the inner life of another person
  • Harry Prosen: "an emotional understanding which allows one as a therapist to resonate with ones patients in depth emotionally, so that it influences the therapeutic approach and alliance with the patient"
  • Carl Rogers
    Carl Rogers
    Carl Ransom Rogers was an influential American psychologist and among the founders of the humanistic approach to psychology...

    : To perceive the internal frame of reference of another with accuracy and with the emotional components and meanings which pertain thereto as if one were the person, but without ever losing the "as if" condition. Thus, it means to sense the hurt or the pleasure of another as he senses it and to perceive the causes thereof as he perceives them, but without ever losing the recognition that it is as if I were hurt or pleased and so forth.
  • Marshall Rosenberg
    Marshall Rosenberg
    Marshall Rosenberg is an American psychologist and the creator of Nonviolent Communication, a communication process that helps people to exchange the information necessary to resolve conflicts and differences peacefully...

    : "Empathic connection is an understanding of the heart in which we see the beauty in the other person, the divine energy in the other person, the life that's alive in them."
  • Roy Schafer
    Roy Schafer
    Roy Schafer is an American psychologist and psychoanalyst, who has emphasised a psychoanalytic concept of narrative. For Schafer, an important purpose of the analytic process is that the analysand regains agency of her own story and of her own life...

    : Empathy involves the inner experience of sharing in and comprehending the momentary psychological state of another person.
  • Wynn Schwartz
    Wynn Schwartz
    Wynn R. Schwartz is an American clinical and experimental psychologist, research psychoanalyst, and modern theorist of psychology, best known for his work in the field of Descriptive Psychology.-Background:...

    : We recognize others as empathic when we feel that they have accurately acted on or somehow acknowledged in stated or unstated fashion our values or motivations, our knowledge, and our skills or competence, but especially as they appear to recognize the significance of our actions in a manner that we can tolerate their being recognized.
  • Edith Stein
    Edith Stein
    Saint Teresia Benedicta of the Cross, sometimes also known as Saint Edith Stein , was a German Roman Catholic philosopher and nun, regarded as a martyr and saint of the Roman Catholic Church...

    : Empathy is the experience of foreign consciousness in general.
  • Simon Baron-Cohen
    Simon Baron-Cohen
    Simon Baron-Cohen FBA is professor of Developmental Psychopathology in the Departments of Psychiatry and Experimental Psychology at the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom. He is the Director of the University's Autism Research Centre, and a Fellow of Trinity College...

     (2003): Empathy is about spontaneously and naturally tuning into the other person's thoughts and feelings, whatever these might be [...]There are two major elements to empathy. The first is the cognitive component: Understanding the others feelings and the ability to take their perspective [...] the second element to empathy is the affective component. This is an observer's appropriate emotional response to another person's emotional state.
  • Khen Lampert
    Khen Lampert
    Khen Lampert is an educator and a philosopher who teaches Philosophy, History, Cultural Studies and Education. He has extensive experience working with children in underprivileged neighborhoods in Israel, both Jewish and Arab....

     (2005): "[Empathy] is what happens to us when we leave our own bodies...and find ourselves either momentarily or for a longer period of time in the mind of the other. We observe reality through her eyes, feel her emotions, share in her pain."


Since empathy involves understanding the emotional states of other people, the way it is characterized is derivative of the way emotions themselves are characterized. If, for example, emotions are taken to be centrally characterized by bodily feelings, then grasping the bodily feelings of another will be central to empathy. On the other hand, if emotions are more centrally characterized by a combination of beliefs and desires, then grasping these beliefs and desires will be more essential to empathy. The ability to imagine oneself as another person is a sophisticated imaginative process. However, the basic capacity to recognize emotions is probably innate and may be achieved unconsciously. Yet it can be trained and achieved with various degrees of intensity or accuracy.

The human capacity to recognize the bodily feelings of another is related to one's imitative capacities and seems to be grounded in the innate capacity to associate the bodily movements and facial expressions one sees in another with the proprioceptive
Proprioception
Proprioception , from Latin proprius, meaning "one's own" and perception, is the sense of the relative position of neighbouring parts of the body and strength of effort being employed in movement...

 feelings of producing those corresponding movements or expressions oneself. Humans seem to make the same immediate connection between the tone of voice and other vocal expressions and inner feeling.

Contrast with other phenomena

Empathy is distinct from sympathy
Sympathy
Sympathy is a social affinity in which one person stands with another person, closely understanding his or her feelings. Also known as empathic concern, it is the feeling of compassion or concern for another, the wish to see them better off or happier. Although empathy and sympathy are often used...

 (which includes empathizing with in addition to having a positive regard or non-fleeting concern for the object thereof), pity
Pity
Pity originally means feeling for others, particularly feelings of sadness or sorrow, and was once used in a comparable sense to the more modern words "sympathy" and "empathy"...

, and emotional contagion
Emotional contagion
Emotional contagion is the tendency to catch and feel emotions that are similar to and influenced by those of others. One view developed by John Cacioppo of the underlying mechanism is that it represents a tendency to automatically mimic and synchronize facial expressions, vocalizations, postures,...

. Sympathy or empathic concern
Empathic concern
Empathic concern refers to other-oriented emotions elicited by and congruent with the perceived welfare of someone in need. These other-oriented emotions include feelings of tenderness, sympathy, compassion, soft-heartedness, and the like...

 is the feeling of compassion
Compassion
Compassion is a virtue — one in which the emotional capacities of empathy and sympathy are regarded as a part of love itself, and a cornerstone of greater social interconnection and humanism — foundational to the highest principles in philosophy, society, and personhood.There is an aspect of...

 or concern for another, the wish to see them better off or happier. Pity is feeling that another is in trouble and in need of help as they cannot fix their problems themselves, often described as "feeling sorry" for someone. Emotional contagion is when a person (especially an infant or a member of a mob
Crowd
A crowd is a large and definable group of people, while "the crowd" is referred to as the so-called lower orders of people in general...

) imitatively "catches" the emotions that others are showing without necessarily recognizing this is happening.

Perspective-taking

Just as empathy was conceptually distinguished from sympathy
Sympathy
Sympathy is a social affinity in which one person stands with another person, closely understanding his or her feelings. Also known as empathic concern, it is the feeling of compassion or concern for another, the wish to see them better off or happier. Although empathy and sympathy are often used...

, beginning with the early definitions of empathy in the 19th century, the term may be in the process of being distinguished further, this time from "perspective taking". Due both to the conceptual confusions between the emotional and cognitive
Cognition
In science, cognition refers to mental processes. These processes include attention, remembering, producing and understanding language, solving problems, and making decisions. Cognition is studied in various disciplines such as psychology, philosophy, linguistics, and computer science...

 aspects of empathy and to an emerging sense of the differences in the functional aspects of the two phenomena, more-recent discussions have distinguished between empathy (as the more intuitive emotional aspect) and perspective-taking (as the more cognitive aspect). Some authors, however, see perspective taking as one of the dimensions of empathy.

Development

By the age of two, children normally begin to display the fundamental behaviors of empathy by having an emotional response that corresponds with another person. Even earlier, at one year of age, infants have some rudiments of empathy, in the sense that they understand that, just like their own actions, other people's actions have goals. Sometimes, toddler
Toddler
A toddler is a young child, usually defined as being between the ages of one and three. Registered nurse, midwife and author, Robin Barker, states 'Any time from eight months onwards your baby will begin to realise he is a separate person from you...

s will comfort others or show concern for them at as early an age as two. Also during the second year, toddlers will play games of falsehood or "pretend" in an effort to fool others, and this requires that the child know what others believe before he or she can manipulate those beliefs.

According to researchers at the University of Chicago
University of Chicago
The University of Chicago is a private research university in Chicago, Illinois, USA. It was founded by the American Baptist Education Society with a donation from oil magnate and philanthropist John D. Rockefeller and incorporated in 1890...

 who used functional magnetic resonance imaging
Functional magnetic resonance imaging
Functional magnetic resonance imaging or functional MRI is a type of specialized MRI scan used to measure the hemodynamic response related to neural activity in the brain or spinal cord of humans or other animals. It is one of the most recently developed forms of neuroimaging...

 (fMRI), children between the ages of 7 and 12 appear to be naturally inclined to feel empathy for others in pain. Their findings are consistent with previous fMRI studies of pain
Pain
Pain is an unpleasant sensation often caused by intense or damaging stimuli such as stubbing a toe, burning a finger, putting iodine on a cut, and bumping the "funny bone."...

 empathy with adults. The research also found additional aspects of the brain were activated when youngsters saw another person intentionally hurt by another individual, including regions involved in moral reasoning.

Despite being able to show some signs of empathy, such as attempting to comfort a crying baby, from as early as 18 months to two years, most children do not show a fully fledged theory of mind
Theory of mind
Theory of mind is the ability to attribute mental states—beliefs, intents, desires, pretending, knowledge, etc.—to oneself and others and to understand that others have beliefs, desires and intentions that are different from one's own...

 until around the age of four. Theory of mind involves the ability to understand that other people may have beliefs that are different from one's own, and is thought to involve the cognitive component of empathy. Children usually become capable of passing "false belief" tasks, considered to be a test for a theory of mind, around the age of four. Individuals with autism
Autism
Autism is a disorder of neural development characterized by impaired social interaction and communication, and by restricted and repetitive behavior. These signs all begin before a child is three years old. Autism affects information processing in the brain by altering how nerve cells and their...

 often find using a theory of mind very difficult (e.g. Baron-Cohen, Leslie & Frith, 1988; the Sally-Anne test
Sally-Anne test
The Sally–Anne test is a psychological test, used in developmental psychology to measure a person's social cognitive ability to attribute false beliefs to others...

).

Empathetic maturity is a cognitive structural theory developed at the Yale University School of Nursing and addresses how adults conceive or understand the personhood of patients. The theory, first applied to nurses and since applied to other professions, postulates three levels that have the properties of cognitive structures. The third and highest level is held to be a meta-ethical theory of the moral structure of care. Those adults operating with level-III understanding synthesize systems of justice and care-based ethics.

Neurological basis

Research in recent years has focused on possible brain processes underlying the experience of empathy. For instance, functional magnetic resonance imaging
Functional magnetic resonance imaging
Functional magnetic resonance imaging or functional MRI is a type of specialized MRI scan used to measure the hemodynamic response related to neural activity in the brain or spinal cord of humans or other animals. It is one of the most recently developed forms of neuroimaging...

 (fMRI) has been employed to investigate the functional anatomy of empathy. These studies have shown that observing another person's emotional state activates parts of the neuronal network involved in processing that same state in oneself, whether it is disgust, touch, or pain. The study of the neural underpinnings of empathy has received increased interest following the target paper published by Preston and Frans de Waal
Frans de Waal
Fransiscus Bernardus Maria de Waal, PhD , is a Dutch primatologist and ethologist. He is the Charles Howard Candler professor of Primate Behavior in the Emory University psychology department in Atlanta, Georgia, and director of the Living Links Center at the Yerkes National Primate Research...

, following the discovery of mirror neuron
Mirror neuron
A mirror neuron is a neuron that fires both when an animal acts and when the animal observes the same action performed by another. Thus, the neuron "mirrors" the behaviour of the other, as though the observer were itself acting. Such neurons have been directly observed in primate and other...

s in monkeys that fire both when the creature watches another perform an action as well as when they themselves perform it. In their paper, they argued that attended perception of the object's state automatically activates neural representations, and that this activation automatically primes or generates the associated autonomic and somatic responses, unless inhibited. This mechanism is similar to the common coding theory
Common coding theory
Common coding theory is a cognitive psychology theory describing how perceptual representations and motor representations are linked. The theory claims that there is a shared representation for both perception and action...

 between perception and action.

Psychopathy

Some psychopaths are able to detect the emotions of others with such a theory of mind and can mimic caring and friendship in a convincing manner, often in an effort to callously exploit others. While some psychopaths can detect what others are feeling, they do not experience any reciprocal emotion or sympathy. However, some research indicates that components of neural circuits involved in empathy may also be dysfunctional in psychopathy.

Narcissistic personality disorder

One characteristic of a person afflicted with narcissistic personality disorder
Narcissistic personality disorder
Narcissistic personality disorder is a personality disorder in which the individual is described as being excessively preoccupied with issues of personal adequacy, power, prestige and vanity...

 is "lacks empathy: is unwilling to recognize or identify with the feelings and needs of others" in order to maintain a secure emotional distance and protect themselves from vulnerability.

Sadistic personality disorder

The same ability may underlie schadenfreude
Schadenfreude
Schadenfreude is pleasure derived from the misfortunes of others. This German word is used as a loanword in English and some other languages, and has been calqued in Danish and Norwegian as skadefryd and Swedish as skadeglädje....

 and sadism. Recently, an fMRI study conducted by Jean Decety
Jean Decety
Jean Decety is a neuroscientist and an internationally recognized expert on cognitive neuroscience and social neuroscience. His research focuses on the neurobiological mechanisms underpinning social cognition, particularly empathy, sympathy, emotional self-regulation and more generally...

 and colleagues at the University of Chicago
University of Chicago
The University of Chicago is a private research university in Chicago, Illinois, USA. It was founded by the American Baptist Education Society with a donation from oil magnate and philanthropist John D. Rockefeller and incorporated in 1890...

 has demonstrated that youths with aggressive conduct disorder
Conduct disorder
Conduct disorder is psychological disorder diagnosed in childhood that presents itself through a repetitive and persistent pattern of behavior in which the basic rights of others or major age-appropriate norms are violated...

 (who have psychopathic tendencies) have a different brain response when confronted with empathy-eliciting stimuli. In the study, researchers compared 16- to 18-year-old boys with aggressive conduct disorder to a control group of adolescent boys with no unusual signs of aggression. The boys with the conduct disorder had exhibited disruptive behavior such as starting a fight, using a weapon and stealing after confronting a victim. The youths were tested with fMRI while looking at video clips in which people endured pain accidentally, such as when a heavy bowl was dropped on their hands, and intentionally, such as when a person stepped on another's foot. Results show that the aggressive youths activated the neural circuits underpinning pain processing to the same extent and, in some cases, even more so than the control participants without conduct disorder. However, aggressive adolescents showed a specific and very strong activation of the amygdala
Amygdala
The ' are almond-shaped groups of nuclei located deep within the medial temporal lobes of the brain in complex vertebrates, including humans. Shown in research to perform a primary role in the processing and memory of emotional reactions, the amygdalae are considered part of the limbic system.-...

 and ventral striatum
Ventral striatum
The ventral striatum is generally considered that part of the striatum that is connectionally associated with limbic structures, such as the amygdala, hippocampus, midline thalamus, and certain regions of the prefrontal cortex...

 (an area that responds to feeling rewarded) when watching pain inflicted on others, which suggested that they enjoyed watching pain. Unlike the control group, the youths with conduct disorder did not activate the area of the brain involved in self-regulation and moral reasoning
Moral reasoning
Moral reasoning is a study in psychology that overlaps with moral philosophy. It is also called moral development. Prominent contributors to theory include Lawrence Kohlberg and Elliot Turiel. The term is sometimes used in a different sense: reasoning under conditions of uncertainty, such as...

.

Anger

Empathic anger is an emotion
Emotion
Emotion is a complex psychophysiological experience of an individual's state of mind as interacting with biochemical and environmental influences. In humans, emotion fundamentally involves "physiological arousal, expressive behaviors, and conscious experience." Emotion is associated with mood,...

, a form of empathic distress. Empathic anger is felt in a situation where someone else is being hurt by another person or thing. It is possible to see this form of anger as a pro-social emotion.

Empathic anger has direct effects on both helping and punishing desires. It can be divided to trait and state empathic angers.

The relationship between empathy and anger response towards another person has also been investigated, with dispositional perspective taking found to be significantly negatively related to anger arousal (i.e. the higher a person's perspective taking ability, the less angry they were in response to a provocation). Empathic concern did not, however, significantly predict anger response, and higher personal distress was associated with increased anger.

Distress

Empathic distress is feeling the perceived pain of another person, which feeling can be transformed into the empathic anger, feeling of injustice, and guilt
Guilt
Guilt is the state of being responsible for the commission of an offense. It is also a cognitive or an emotional experience that occurs when a person realizes or believes—accurately or not—that he or she has violated a moral standard, and bears significant responsibility for that...

. These emotions can be perceived as pro-social, and some say they can be seen as motives for moral behavior.

Autism spectrum disorders

The interaction between empathy and autism spectrum disorders is a complex and ongoing field of research.

Alexithymia

Research suggests that 85% of ASD individuals have alexithymia
Alexithymia
Alexithymia from the Ancient Greek words λέξις and θυμός modified by an alpha-privative—literally "without words for emotions"—is a term coined by psychotherapist Peter Sifneos in 1973 to describe a state of deficiency in understanding, processing, or describing...

, which involves not just the inability to verbally express emotions, but specifically the inability to identify emotional states in self or others. According to recent fMRI studies the syndrome of alexithymia
Alexithymia
Alexithymia from the Ancient Greek words λέξις and θυμός modified by an alpha-privative—literally "without words for emotions"—is a term coined by psychotherapist Peter Sifneos in 1973 to describe a state of deficiency in understanding, processing, or describing...

, a condition in which an individual is rendered incapable of recognising and articulating emotional arousal in self or others, is responsible for a severe lack of emotional empathy. The lack of empathic attunement inherent to alexithymic states may reduce quality and satisfaction of relationships.

Theory of mind

Also common is an impairment in theory of mind
Theory of mind
Theory of mind is the ability to attribute mental states—beliefs, intents, desires, pretending, knowledge, etc.—to oneself and others and to understand that others have beliefs, desires and intentions that are different from one's own...

 (ToM), the ability to model another's world view using either a theory-like analogy between oneself and others, or the ability to simulate pretend mental states and then apply the consequences of these simulations to others. Francesca Happe showed that autistic children who demonstrate a lack of theory of mind (cognitive empathy) lack theory of mind for self as well as for others.

Mirror neuron activity

One study found that, relative to typically developing children, high-functioning children with autism showed reduced mirror neuron
Mirror neuron
A mirror neuron is a neuron that fires both when an animal acts and when the animal observes the same action performed by another. Thus, the neuron "mirrors" the behaviour of the other, as though the observer were itself acting. Such neurons have been directly observed in primate and other...

 activity in the brain's inferior frontal gyrus
Inferior frontal gyrus
The inferior frontal gyrus is a gyrus of the frontal lobe . It is labelled gyrus frontalis inferior, its Latin name...

 (pars opercularis) while imitating and observing emotional expressions. The authors suggested that their study supports the hypothesis that a dysfunctional mirror neuron system may underlie the social deficits observed in autism. However, this finding has not been replicated by other fMRI studies.

Cognitive versus affective empathy

Rogers et al. suggest that one must differentiate between cognitive empathy and affective empathy when regarding people with Asperger syndrome
Asperger syndrome
Asperger's syndrome that is characterized by significant difficulties in social interaction, alongside restricted and repetitive patterns of behavior and interests. It differs from other autism spectrum disorders by its relative preservation of linguistic and cognitive development...

. They suggest that autistic individuals have less ability to ascertain others' feelings, but demonstrate equal empathy when they are aware of others' states of mind. Autistic and AS people actually have a greater response to stress that they witness others experiencing than neurotypical
Neurotypical
Neurotypical is a term that was coined in the autistic community as a label for people who are not on the autism spectrum: specifically, neurotypical people have neurological development and states that are consistent with what most people would perceive as normal, particularly with respect to...

 people do.

Oversensitivity

A common source of confusion in analyzing the interactions between empathy and autism spectrum disorders (ASD) is that the apparent lack of empathy may mask emotional oversensitivity to the feelings of others. People with ASDs may suppress their emotional facility in order to avoid painful feedback. This is cited by Phoebe Caldwell, an author on ASD, who writes:
An apparent lack of empathy may also mask an inability to express empathy to others, as opposed to difficulty feeling it, internally.

Practical issues

Proper empathic engagement helps one to understand and anticipate the behavior of another. Apart from the automatic tendency to recognise the emotions of others, one may also deliberately engage in empathic reasoning. Two general methods have been identified here (e.g. Goldie 2000). A person may simulate 'pretend' versions of the beliefs, desires, character traits and context of the other and see what emotional feelings this leads to. Or, a person may simulate the emotional feeling and then look around for a suitable reason for this to fit.

Some research suggests that people are more able and willing to empathize with those most similar to themselves. In particular, empathy increases with similarities in culture and living conditions. Empathy is more likely to occur between individuals whose interaction is more frequent. (See Levenson and Reuf 1997 and Hoffman 2000: 62). A measure of how well a person can infer the specific content of another person's thoughts and feelings has been developed by William Ickes (1997, 2003). Ickes and his colleagues have developed a video-based method to measure empathic accuracy and have used this method to study the empathic inaccuracy of maritally aggressive and abusive spouses, among other topics.

There are concerns that the empathiser's own emotional background may affect or distort what emotions they perceive in others (e.g. Goleman 1996: p. 104). Empathy is not a process that is likely to deliver certain judgements about the emotional states of others. It is a skill that is gradually developed throughout life, and which improves the more contact we have with the person with whom one empathises. Accordingly, any knowledge gained of the emotions of the other must be revisable in light of further information.

Ethical issues

The extent to which a person's emotions are publicly observable, or mutually recognized as such has significant social consequences. Empathic recognition may or may not be welcomed or socially desirable. This is particularly the case where we recognise the emotions that someone has towards us during real time interactions. Based on a metaphorical affinity with touch, philosopher Edith Wyschogrod claims that the proximity entailed by empathy increases the potential vulnerability of either party. The appropriate role of empathy in our dealings with others is highly dependent on the circumstances. For instance, it is claimed that clinicians or caregivers must take care not to be too sensitive to the emotions of others, to over-invest their own emotions, at the risk of draining away their own resourcefulness. Furthermore an awareness of the limitations of empathic accuracy is prudent in a caregiving situation.

Psychotherapy

Heinz Kohut
Heinz Kohut
Heinz Kohut was an Austrian-born American psychoanalyst best known for his development of Self psychology, an influential school of thought within psychodynamic/psychoanalytic theory which helped transform the modern practice of analytic and dynamic treatment approaches.-Early life:Kohut was born...

 is the main introducer of the principle of empathy in psychoanalysis. His principle applies to the method of gathering unconscious material. The possibility of not applying the principle is granted in the cure, for instance when you must reckon with another principle, that of reality. Developing skills of empathy is often a central theme in the recovery process for drug addicts.

In evolutionary psychology, attempts at explaining pro-social behavior often mention the presence of empathy in the individual as a possible variable. Although exact motives behind complex social behaviors are difficult to distinguish, the "ability to put oneself in the shoes of another person and experience events and emotions the way that person experienced them" is the definitive factor for truly altruistic behavior according to Batson's empathy-altruism
Altruism
Altruism is a concern for the welfare of others. It is a traditional virtue in many cultures, and a core aspect of various religious traditions, though the concept of 'others' toward whom concern should be directed can vary among cultures and religions. Altruism is the opposite of...

 hypothesis. If empathy is not felt, social exchange (what's in it for me?) supersedes pure altruism, but if empathy is felt, an individual will help by actions or by word, regardless of whether it is in their self-interest to do so and even if the costs outweigh potential rewards.

Education

An important target of the method Learning by teaching
Learning by teaching
In professional education, learning by teaching designates currently the method by Jean-Pol Martin that allows pupils and students to prepare and to teach lessons, or parts of lessons...

 (LbT) is to train systematically and, in each lesson, teach empathy. Students have to transmit new content to their classmates, so they have to reflect continuously on the mental processes of the other students in the classroom. This way it is possible to develop step-by-step the students' feeling for group reactions and networking.

Evolution of Empathy

In increasing number of studies in animal behavior
Ethology
Ethology is the scientific study of animal behavior, and a sub-topic of zoology....

 and neuroscience claim that empathy is not restricted to humans, and is in fact as old as the mammals, or perhaps older. Examples include dolphin
Dolphin
Dolphins are marine mammals that are closely related to whales and porpoises. There are almost forty species of dolphin in 17 genera. They vary in size from and , up to and . They are found worldwide, mostly in the shallower seas of the continental shelves, and are carnivores, mostly eating...

s saving humans from drowning or from shark attack
Shark attack
A shark attack is an attack on a human by a shark. Every year around 60 shark attacks are reported worldwide, although death is quite unusual. Despite the relative rarity of shark attacks, the fear of sharks is a common phenomenon, having been fueled by the occasional instances of serial attacks,...

s, and a multitude of behaviors observed in primate
Primate
A primate is a mammal of the order Primates , which contains prosimians and simians. Primates arose from ancestors that lived in the trees of tropical forests; many primate characteristics represent adaptations to life in this challenging three-dimensional environment...

s, both in captivity and in the wild. (See, for instance, Frans de Waal
Frans de Waal
Fransiscus Bernardus Maria de Waal, PhD , is a Dutch primatologist and ethologist. He is the Charles Howard Candler professor of Primate Behavior in the Emory University psychology department in Atlanta, Georgia, and director of the Living Links Center at the Yerkes National Primate Research...

's The Age of Empathy.) Rodents have been shown to demonstrate empathy for cagemates (but not strangers) in pain. One of the most widely read studies on the evolution of empathy, which discusses a neural perception-action mechanism (PAM), is the one by Stephanie Preston and de Waal . This review postulates a bottom-up model of empathy that ties together all levels, from state matching to perspective-taking.

Fiction

Some philosophers (such as Martha Nussbaum) suggest that novel reading cultivates readers' empathy and leads them to exercise better world citizenship. For a critique of this application of the empathy-altruism hypothesis to experiences of narrative empathy, see Keen's Empathy and the Novel (Oxford, 2007). In some works of science fiction
Science fiction
Science fiction is a genre of fiction dealing with imaginary but more or less plausible content such as future settings, futuristic science and technology, space travel, aliens, and paranormal abilities...

 and fantasy
Fantasy
Fantasy is a genre of fiction that commonly uses magic and other supernatural phenomena as a primary element of plot, theme, or setting. Many works within the genre take place in imaginary worlds where magic is common...

, empathy is understood to be a paranormal or psychic
Parapsychology
The term parapsychology was coined in or around 1889 by philosopher Max Dessoir, and originates from para meaning "alongside", and psychology. The term was adopted by J.B. Rhine in the 1930s as a replacement for the term psychical research...

 ability to sense the emotions of others, as opposed to telepathy
Telepathy
Telepathy , is the induction of mental states from one mind to another. The term was coined in 1882 by the classical scholar Fredric W. H. Myers, a founder of the Society for Psychical Research, and has remained more popular than the more-correct expression thought-transference...

, which allows one to perceive thoughts as well. A person who has that ability is also called an "empath" or "telepath" in this context. Occasionally these empaths are also able to project their own emotions, or to affect the emotions of others.

History

Some postmodern historians such as Keith Jenkins
Keith Jenkins
Keith Jenkins is a British historiographer. Like Hayden White and "postmodern" historiographers, Jenkins believes that any historian's output should be seen as a story. A work of history is as much about the historian's own world view and ideological positions as it is about past events...

 in recent years have debated whether or not it is possible to empathise with people from the past. Jenkins argues that empathy only enjoys such a privileged position in the present because it corresponds harmoniously with the dominant Liberal discourse of modern society and can be connected to John Stuart Mill
John Stuart Mill
John Stuart Mill was a British philosopher, economist and civil servant. An influential contributor to social theory, political theory, and political economy, his conception of liberty justified the freedom of the individual in opposition to unlimited state control. He was a proponent of...

's concept of reciprocal freedom. Jenkins argues the past is a foreign country and as we do not have access to the epistemological conditions of by gone ages we are unable to empathise.

It is impossible to forecast the effect of empathy on the future. A past subject may take part in the present by the so-called historic present. If we watch from a fictitious past, can tell the present with the future tense, as it happens with the trick of the false prophecy. There is no way of telling the present with the means of the past.

Business

In the 2009 book Wired to Care
Wired to Care
Wired to Care: How Companies Prosper When They Create Widespread Empathy is a book by Dev Patnaik, first published by Financial Times Press in 2009.-Overview:...

, strategy consultant Dev Patnaik argues that a major flaw in contemporary business practice is a lack of empathy inside large corporations. He states that lacking any sense of empathy, people inside companies struggle to make intuitive decisions and often get fooled into believing they understand their business if they have quantitative research to rely upon. Patnaik claims that the real opportunity for companies doing business in the 21st Century is to create a widely held sense of empathy for customers, pointing to Nike, Harley-Davidson, and IBM as examples of "Open Empathy Organizations". Such institutions, he claims, see new opportunities more quickly than competitors, adapt to change more easily, and create workplaces that offer employees a greater sense of mission in their jobs http://www.wiredtocare.com. In the 2011 book The Empathy Factor, organizational consultant Marie Miyashiro similarly argues the value of bringing empathy to the workplace, and offers Nonviolent Communication
Nonviolent communication
Nonviolent Communication is a communication process developed by Marshall Rosenberg beginning in the 1960s. NVC often functions as a conflict resolution process...

 as an effective mechanism for achieving this.

Philosophy

In the 2007 book The Ethics of Care and Empathy, philosopher Michael Slote introduces a theory of care-based ethics that is grounded in empathy. His claim is that moral motivation does, and should, stem from a basis of empathic response. He claims that our natural reaction to situations of moral significance are explained by empathy. He explains that the limits and obligations of empathy and in turn morality are natural. These natural obligations include a greater empathic, and moral obligation to family and friends, along with an account of temporal and physical distance. In situations of close temporal and physical distance, and with family or friends, our moral obligation seems stronger to us than with strangers at a distance naturally. Slote explains that this is due to empathy and our natural empathic ties. He further adds that actions are wrong if and only if they reflect or exhibit a deficiency of fully developed empathic concern for others on the part of the agent.

In phenomenology, empathy is used to describe the experience in which one experiences what the other
Other
The Other or Constitutive Other is a key concept in continental philosophy; it opposes the Same. The Other refers, or attempts to refer, to that which is Other than the initial concept being considered...

experiences as the experience of experiencing something from the other's viewpoint, without confusion between self and other. This draws on the sense of agency
Sense of agency
The "sense of agency" refers to the subjective awareness that one is initiating, executing, and controlling one's own volitional actions in the world. It is the pre-reflective awareness or implicit sense that it is me who is presently executing bodily movement or thinking thoughts...

. In the most basic sense, this is the experience of the other's body and, in this sense, it is an experience of "my body over there". In most other respects, however, the experience is modified so that what is experienced is experienced as being the other's experience; in experiencing empathy, what is experienced is not "my" experience, even though I experience it. Empathy is also considered to be the condition of intersubjectivity
Intersubjectivity
Intersubjectivity is a term used in philosophy, psychology, sociology and anthropology to describe a condition somewhere between subjectivity and objectivity, one in which a phenomenon is personally experienced but by more than one subject....

 and, as such, the source of the constitution of objectivity.

Teaching Empathy

Nonviolent Communication
Nonviolent communication
Nonviolent Communication is a communication process developed by Marshall Rosenberg beginning in the 1960s. NVC often functions as a conflict resolution process...

 places empathy at the heart of its communication process, and treats empathy as a teachable skill, centered on learning to recognize and honor the feelings and universal human needs
Fundamental human needs
Fundamental human needs, according to the school of "" developed by Manfred Max-Neef and others , are seen as ontological , are few, finite and classifiable...

 that are active in oneself and others.

The Roots of Empathy
Roots of Empathy
Roots of Empathy is an evidence-based classroom program that has shown dramatic effect in reducing levels of aggression among schoolchildren by raising social/emotional competence and increasing empathy. The program reaches elementary schoolchildren from Kindergarten to Grade 8...

 program teaches children empathy through experiences with an infant brought to the classroom.

Measurement

Research into the measurement of empathy has sought to answer a number of questions: who should be carrying out the measurement? What should pass for empathy and what should be discounted? What unit of measure (UOM) should be adopted and to what degree should each occurrence precisely match that UOM are also key questions that researchers have sought to investigate.

Researchers have approached the measurement of empathy from a number of perspectives.

Behavioural measures normally involve raters assessing the presence or absence of certain either predetermined or ad-hoc behaviours in the subjects they are monitoring. Both verbal and non-verbal behaviours have been captured on video by experimenters such as Truax (1967b). Other experimenters, including Mehrabian and Epstein (1972), have required subjects to comment upon their own feelings and behaviours, or those of other people involved in the experiment, as indirect ways of signalling their level of empathic functioning to the raters.

Physiological responses tend to be captured by elaborate electronic equipment that has been physically connected to the subject's body. Researchers then draw inferences about that person's empathic reactions from the electronic readings produced (e.g. Levenson and Ruef, 1992; Leslie et al., 2004).

Bodily or "somatic" measures can be looked upon as behavioural measures at a micro level. Their focus is upon measuring empathy through facial and other non-verbally expressed reactions in the empathiser. These changes are presumably underpinned by physiological changes brought about by some form of "emotional contagion" or mirroring (e.g. Levenson and Ruef, 1992*; Leslie et al., 2004*). It should be pointed out that these reactions, whilst appearing to reflect the internal emotional state of the empathiser, could also, if the stimulus incident lasted more than the briefest period, be reflecting the results of emotional reactions that are based upon more pieces of thinking through (cognitions) associated with role-taking ("if I were him I would feel...").

Paper-based indices involve one or more of a variety of methods of responding. In some experiments, subjects are required to watch video scenarios (either staged or authentic) and to make written responses which are then assessed for their levels of empathy (e.g. Geher, Warner and Brown, 2001); scenarios are sometimes also depicted in printed form (e.g. Mehrabian and Epstein, 1972). Measures also frequently require subjects to self-report upon their own ability or capacity for empathy, using Likert-style numerical responses to a printed questionnaire that may have been designed to tap into the emotional, cognitive-affective or largely cognitive substrates of empathic functioning. Some questionnaires claim to have been able to tap into both cognitive and emotional substrates (e.g. Davis, 1980). More recent paper-based tools include The Empathy Quotient (EQ) created by Baron-Cohen and Wheelwright which comprises a self report questionnaire consisting of 60 items.

For the very young, picture or puppet-story indices for empathy have been adopted to enable even very young, pre-school subjects to respond without needing to read questions and write answers (e.g. Denham and Couchoud, 1990). Dependent variables (variables that are monitored for any change by the experimenter) for younger subjects have included self reporting on a 7-point smiley face scale and filmed facial reactions (Barnett, 1984).

A certain amount of confusion exists about how to measure empathy. These may be rooted in another problem: deciding what is empathy and what is not. In general, researchers have until now been keen to pin down a singular definition of empathy which would allow them to design a measure to assess its presence in an exchange, in someone's repertoire of behaviours or within them as a latent trait. As a result they have been frequently forced to ignore the richness of the empathic process in favour of capturing surface, explicit self-report or third-party data about whether empathy between two people was present or not. In most cases, instruments have unfortunately only yielded information on whether someone had the potential to demonstrate empathy (Geher et al., 2001)*. Gladstein (1987) summarises the position noting that empathy has been measured from the point of view of the empathiser, the recipient for empathy and the third-party observer. He suggests that since the multiple measures used have produced results that bear little relation to one another, researchers should refrain from making comparisons between scales that are in fact measuring different things. He suggests that researchers should instead stipulate what kind of empathy they are setting out to measure rather than simplistically stating that they are setting out to measure the unitary phenomenon "empathy"; a view more recently endorsed by Duan and Hill (1996).

In the field of medicine, a measurement tool for carers is the Jefferson Scale of Physician Empathy, Health Professional Version (JSPE-HP). At least one study using this tool with health sciences' students has found
that levels of empathy are greater amogst females than males, and also are greater amongst older
students than younger students.

Gender differences

The issue of gender differences
Gender differences
A sex difference is a distinction of biological and/or physiological characteristics associated with either males or females of a species. These can be of several types, including direct and indirect. Direct being the direct result of differences prescribed by the Y-chromosome, and indirect being...

 in empathy is quite controversial. It is often believed that females are more empathic than males. Evidence for gender differences in empathy are important for self report questionnaires of empathy in which it is obvious what was being indexed (e.g., impact of social desirability and gender stereotypes) but are smaller or nonexistent for other types of indexes that are less self-evident with regard to their purpose. On average female subjects score higher than males on the Empathy Quotient (EQ), while males tend to score higher on the Systemizing Quotient (SQ).

Both males and females with Autistic Spectrum Disorders
Autism spectrum
The term "autism spectrum" is often used to describe disorders that are currently classified as pervasive developmental disorders. Pervasive developmental disorders include autism, Asperger syndrome, Childhood disintegrative disorder, Rett syndrome and Pervasive Developmental Disorder Not Otherwise...

 usually score higher on the SQ (Baron-Cohen, 2003). However, a series of recent studies, using a variety of neurophysiological measures, including MEG
Magnetoencephalography
Magnetoencephalography is a technique for mapping brain activity by recording magnetic fields produced by electrical currents occurring naturally in the brain, using arrays of SQUIDs...

, spinal reflex excitability, and electroencephalography have documented the presence of a gender difference in the human mirror neuron system, with female participants exhibiting stronger motor resonance than male participants. In addition, these aforementioned studies found that female participants scored higher on empathy self report dispositional measures and that these measures positively correlated with the physiological response. However, other studies show that women do not possess greater empathic abilities than men, and perceived gender differences are the result of motivational differences. Using fMRI, neuroscientist Tania Singer
Tania Singer
Tania Singer is the director of the Department of Social Neuroscience at the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences in Leipzig, Germany...

 showed that empathy-related neural responses are significantly lower in males when observing an “unfair” person experiencing pain.

See also

  • Emotional transmission
  • Mentalization
    Mentalization
    Mentalization is a psychological concept that describes the ability to understand the mental state of oneself and others which underlies overt behaviour. Mentalization can be seen as a form of imaginative mental activity, which allow us to perceive and interpret human behaviour in terms of...

  • People skills
    People skills
    According to the Portland Business Journal, people skills are often described as:* understanding ourselves and moderating our responses* talking effectively and empathizing accurately* building relationships of trust, respect and productive interactions....

  • Simulation theory of empathy
    Simulation theory of empathy
    The simulation theory is not primarily a theory of empathy, but rather a theory of how we understand others -- that we do so by way of a kind of empathetic response. The theory holds that humans anticipate and make sense of the behavior of others by activating mental processes that, if carried into...

  • Sympathy
    Sympathy
    Sympathy is a social affinity in which one person stands with another person, closely understanding his or her feelings. Also known as empathic concern, it is the feeling of compassion or concern for another, the wish to see them better off or happier. Although empathy and sympathy are often used...

  • Ethnocultural empathy
    Ethnocultural empathy
    Ethnocultural empathy refers to the understanding of feelings of individuals that are ethnically and/or culturally different from ones’ self. This concept casts doubts on global empathy, which assumes that empathy is “feeling in oneself the feelings of others” and is not specifically targeting any...


Books

  • Agosta, L. (2010). Empathy in the Context of Philosophy. London: Palgrave.
  • Andréasson, P. (2010). Emotional Empathy, Facial Reactions, and Facial Feedback. Acta Universitatis Upsaliensis. Digital Comprehensive Summaries of Uppsala Dissertations from the Faculty of Social Sciences, 58.
  • Davis, M. H. (1996). Empathy: A Social-Psychological Approach. Westview.
  • Decety, J., & Ickes, W. (2009). The Social Neuroscience of Empathy. Cambridge: MIT Press.
  • de Waal, F. (2009). The Age of Empathy. New York: Harmony Press.
  • Eisenberg, N., & Strayer, J. (1987). Empathy and its Development. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Farrow, T. F., & Woodruff, P.W. (2007). Empathy and Mental Illness. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Hoffman, M.L. (2000). Empathy and Moral Development. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Keysers, C. (2011). The Empathic Brain. Kindle Edition.
  • Koegler, H. H. and Stueber, K. R., eds. (2000). Empathy and Agency. Boulder, CO: Westview Press.
  • Stein, E. (1917). On the Problem of Empathy. ICS Publications: Washington, 1989.
  • Stueber. K. E. (2006). Rediscovering Empathy. Cambridge: MIT Press.
  • Nolan, M (2011). " Walking with Them, An Empathetic Crusade" New York : ECF Enterprises
  • Rifkin, J (2009). " The Empathic Civilization" New York : Penguin Group

External links

The source of this article is wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The text of this article is licensed under the GFDL.
 
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