Empathy is the capacity to recognize or understand "another's" state of mind or emotion. It is often characterized as the ability to "put oneself into another's shoes", or to in some way experience the outlook or emotions of another being within oneself.

It is important to note that empathy does not necessarily imply compassion. Empathy can be 'used' for compassionate or cruel behavior.


The English word empathy is derived from the Greek "ἐμπάθεια" ("empatheia"), "physical affection, passion, partiality" which comes from "ἐν" ("en"), "in, at" + "πάθος" ("pathos"), "feeling" [ [http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/cgi-bin/ptext?doc=Perseus%3Atext%3A1999.04.0057%3Aentry%3D%2334198 Empatheia, Henry George Liddell, Robert Scott, "A Greek-English Lexicon", at Perseus] ] . The term was adapted by Theodore Lipps to create the German word "Einfühlung" ("feeling into") from which the English term is then more directly derived. [Preston, Stephanie D. and Frans B. M. de Waal. 2002. Empathy: its ultimate and proximate bases. "Behavioral and Brain Sciences" 25: 1-72.]


Since empathy involves understanding the emotions 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 combinations of beliefs and desires, then grasping these beliefs and desires will be more essential to empathy.

Furthermore, a distinction should be made between deliberately imagining "being" another person, or being in their situation, and simply recognizing their emotion. 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 feelings of producing those corresponding movements or expressions oneself. Humans also seem to make the same immediate connection between the tone of voice and other vocal expressions and inner feeling. See neurological basis below. There is some debate concerning how exactly the conscious experience (or phenomenology) of empathy should be characterized. The basic idea is that by looking at the facial expressions or bodily movements of another, or by hearing their tone of voice, one may get an immediate sense of how they feel (as opposed to more intellectually noting the behavioral symptoms of their emotion). [See for instance Austin (1979).] Though empathic recognition is likely to involve some form of arousal in the empathiser, they may not experience this feeling as belonging to their own body, but instead likely to perceptually locate the feeling 'in' the body of the other person. Alternatively the empathiser may instead get a sense of an emotional 'atmosphere' or that the emotion belongs equally to all the parties involved.

More fully developed empathy requires more than simply recognizing another's emotional state. Since emotions are typically directed towards objects or states of affairs, the empathiser may first require some idea of what that object might be (where object can include imaginary objects, concepts, other people, or even the empathiser). Alternatively the recognition of the feeling may precede the recognition of the object of that emotion, or even aid the empathiser in discovering the object of the other's emotion. The empathiser may also need to determine how the emotional state affects the way in which the other perceives the object. For example, the empathizer needs to determine which aspects of the object to focus on. Hence it is often not enough that the empathiser recognize the object toward which the other is directed, plus the bodily feeling, and then simply add these components together. Rather the empathiser needs to find the way into the loop where perception of the object affects feeling and feeling affects the perception of the object. The following sequence of examples identifies some of the major factors in empathizing with another:

I sense that:
* Frank is feeling annoyed, (via facial, vocal or postural expression).
* Frank is feeling annoyed due to not getting what he wants, (general object of emotion).
* Frank is feeling annoyed because he missed his train, (particular object of emotion)
* Frank is feeling annoyed because he missed his train, but only by a few seconds, (focus of particular object).
* Frank is feeling annoyed because he only just missed his train and he had an important meeting to get to, (background non-psychological context).
* Frank is feeling annoyed because he only just missed his train, and he had an important meeting and because he is generally an irritable sort of person (character traits).

Contrasting empathy with other phenomena

Empathy is distinct from sympathy, pity, emotional contagion, and telepathy. "Sympathy" is the feeling of compassion 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) imitatively 'catches' the emotions that others are showing without necessarily recognizing this is happening (Hatfield et al 1994). "Telepathy" is not a psychological phenomenon, but a supposedly paranormal phenomenon, whereby emotions or other mental states can be read directly, without needing to infer, or perceive expressive clues about the other person.

Pity is, "Things are bad for you, you seem as though you need help."
Sympathy is, "I'm sorry for your sadness, I wish to help."
Emotional Contagion is, "You feel sad and now I feel sad."
Empathy is, "I recognize how you feel."
Apathy is, "I don't care how you feel. "
Telepathy is, "I read your sadness without you expressing it to me in any normal way."

Schadenfreude is “Things are bad for you and I feel good about that.”

Empathic development

By the age of 2, 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. [Terje Falck-Ytter, Gustaf Gredebäck & Claes von Hofsten (2006), "Infants predict other people's action goals" [http://www.psyk.uu.se/hemsidor/spadbarnslabbet/pdf/F_Y_NN_2006.pdf] ", Nature Neuroscience 9 (2006)] . Sometimes, toddlers will comfort others or show concern for them as early as 24 months of age. 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 (Feldman, 1997). According to researchers who used functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI), children between the ages of seven and 12 appear to be naturally inclined to feel empathy for others in pain. Their findings, published in Neuropsychologia (June 3, 2008), [cite journal |Decety J, Michalska KJ, Akitsuki Y|title=Who caused the pain? An fMRI investigation of empathy and intentionality in children.|journal=Neuropsychologia|year=2008 |date=Jun 3 |pmid=18573266 |PubMed - as supplied by publisher] is consistent with previous fMRI studies of pain 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. [ [http://newswise.com/articles/view/542456/ Brain Scans Show Children Naturally Prone to Empathy] Newswise, Retrieved on July 13, 2008.]

In 1997, [http://nursing.yale.edu/Faculty/olsen.html Douglas Olsen] defined empathetic maturity as the cognitive structure that determines whether a person can feel or not feel empathy, who one feels it for and how broad a group. Differences in empathetic maturity are differences in the way a person relates self-created meaning to meaning perceived in others. Empathetic maturity provides the criteria for determining whether another will be experienced as "like me" or "different." More inclusive criteria increase the number and diversity of others who will be perceived empathetically. The highest of the hierarchical stages of empathetic maturity is the most inclusive where all others are perceived as "like me." (Olsen, 2001) There are three stages of empathetic maturity [http://www.advancesinnursingscience.com/pt/re/ans/abstract.00012272-200109000-00006.htm;jsessionid=GGYbhPMYL22Bs11bxK1RRPCLXzz8bLLjYMj0HmFzL7K61YrQ8GFX!3145886!-949856145!8091!-1 (Olsen, 2001;] and [http://www.nursingresearchonline.com/pt/re/nnr/abstract.00006199-199703000-00004.htm;jsessionid=GGZNnW2fFTTpgKxMt1JWTxXKZn5HZCc08pytT7nsZ8YHh8ykDTHv!-1870145763!-949856144!8091!-1 Olsen, 1997)] :

Stage 1 – This most primitive pattern and not common in adults. Persons at this stage see others as fundamentally different from themselves. The rationales for another's actions, feelings, or thoughts are not experienced as having human relevance in the sense that one’s own rationales do. Those operating at this stage perceive mutuality with others concretely.

Stage 2 – People at Stage 2 hold that their rationales for behavior are valid for everyone. And so, reasons for behaviors and feelings are legitimate to the degree they coincide with the person at Stage 2. Unlike Stage 1, the Stage 2 person sees others like him or her so long as they make sense of their world the same way. Therefore, positive regard for a sufferer perceived to be participating in negative behaviors is difficult for the Stage 2 person unless the behavior is explicable from his or her point of view. An example of such negative behavior would be AIDS as the result of sex practices not condoned by the Stage 2 observer. If the Stage 2 person believes the sufferer is responsible for the behavior, he or she will have no empathy. If the Stage 2 person can detect an acceptable reason why the sufferer is not actually responsible, for example, illness resulted from blood transfusion, beyond the sufferer's control, then empathy emerges. [Note: This "example" confuses empathy per se, being the ability to recreate in one's mind the emotional or cognitive state of mind of another being and so understand that other being, with the possible resulting sympathy/compassion a person feels towards a sufferer as a result of the empathy. Whether sympathy/compassion occurs clearly also depends on the empath's value judgments and understanding of what caused the suffering, but the empathy that allows the person to understand that suffering occurs is still present.] Caregivers at Stage 2 who want to feel empathetic toward their patients often try to find factors that mitigate responsibility. Most of society operates at Stage 2.

Stage 3 – At this stage, mutuality occurs prior to any judgment about the person's behavior. The other is perceived as human in the same way the self is experienced, based solely on being a creator of meaning rather than on the content of the meanings created. The perception of another person as responsible for a problem no longer has the power to hinder the development of empathy. If the sufferer is seen as responsible, there is no longer any need to mitigate that responsibility as a method for allowing empathy. A hallmark of Stage 3 is a person's ability to perceive another empathetically while simultaneously and without apparent contradiction perceiving that other as responsible for problematic behavior.

Neurological basis

Research in recent years has focused on possible brain processes as concomitant with empathy. Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) has recently been employed to investigate the functional anatomy of empathy (for reviews see Decety & Jackson, 2006; deVignemont & Singer, 2006). 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 (Wicker et al., 2003), touch (Keysers et al., 2004), or pain (Morrison et al., 2004; Jackson et al., 2005, 2006; Lamm et al., 2007; Singer et al., 2004, 2006; Gu and Han, 2007.

The study of empathic neuronal circuitries was inspired by the discovery of mirror neurons in monkeys that fire both when the creature watches another perform an action as well as when they themselves perform it presents a possible neural mechanism for mapping others' feelings onto one's own nervous system. Based on some of this work, the simulation theory of empathy has been developed.

Lack of empathy

Some psychologists, psychiatrists, and other scientists believe that not all humans have an ability to feel empathy or perceive the emotions of others. For instance, Autism and related conditions such as Asperger's syndrome are often (but not always) characterized by an apparent reduced ability to empathize with others. The interaction between empathy and autism spectrum disorders is a complex and ongoing field of research, and is discussed in detail below.

According to recent fMRI studies [Moriguchi, Y., Decety, J., Ohnishi, T., Maeda, M., Matsuda, H., & Komaki, G. Empathy and judging other’s pain: An fMRI study of alexithymia. Cerebral Cortex (2007); Bird, J., Silani, G., Brindley, R., Singer, T., Frith, U., and Frith, C. Alexithymia In Autistic Spectrum Disorders: and fMRI Investigation (2006) : and Bird, G., Silani, G., Brindley, R., Singer, T., Frith, U & C. "Alexithymia in Autism Spectrum Disorders: an fMRI Investigation" (2006).] the syndrome of alexithymia, 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. [Moriguchi, Y., Decety, J., Ohnishi, T., Maeda, M., Matsuda, H., & Komaki, G. Empathy and judging other’s pain: An fMRI study of alexithymia. Cerebral Cortex (2007); Bird, J., Silani, G., Brindley, R., Singer, T., Frith, U., and Frith, C. Alexithymia In Autistic Spectrum Disorders: and fMRI Investigation (2006) : and Bird, G., Silani, G., Brindley, R., Singer, T., Frith, U & C. "Alexithymia in Autism Spectrum Disorders: an fMRI Investigation" (2006).] The lack of empathetic attunement inherent to alexithymic states may reduce quality [Brackett et al - 'Emotional Intelligence and Relationship Quality Among Couples' in "Personal Relationships, 12" (2005) p.197-212 [http://research.yale.edu/heblab/pub_pdf/pub70_BrackettWarnerBosco2005_EIrelationshipquality.pdf] ] and satisfaction [Yelsma, P., Marrow, S. - 'An Examination of Couples' Difficulties With Emotional Expressiveness and Their Marital Satisfaction' in Journal of Family Communication 3 (2003) p.41-62 [http://www.leaonline.com/doi/abs/10.1207/S15327698JFC0301_03] ] of relationships.

According to Simon Baron-Cohen's ideas, an absence of empathy might also be related to an absence of theory of mind (i.e., 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). Again with regard to autism, not all autistics fit this pattern, and the theory remains controversial, and does not differentiate between cognitive empathy and affective empathy, nor do autistic people lack compassion. 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 [IMFAR 2007 abstract http://www.autism-insar.org/docs/IMFAR2007_Program.pdf] .

In contrast, psychopaths are "seemingly" able to demonstrate the appearance of sensing the emotions of others with such a theory of mind, often demonstrating care and friendship in a convincing manner, and can use this ability to charm or manipulate, but they crucially lack the sympathy or compassion that empathy often leads to. However, it has been claimed that components of circuitry involved in empathy may also be dysfunctional in psychopathy (Tunstall N., Fahy T. and McGuire P. in: "Guide to Neuroimaging in Psychiatry", Eds. Fu C et al, Martin Dunitz: London 2003). Empathy certainly does not guarantee benevolence. The same ability may underlie schadenfreude (taking pleasure in the pain of another entity) and sadism (being sexually gratified through the infliction of pain or humiliation on another person).Fact|date=April 2008

Empathy and autism spectrum disorders

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 at least two other underlying causes:
* Excessive sensitivity or "overwhelm," may be a cause of early learned suppression. [This is cited by Phoebe Caldwell, an author on ASD, who writes: "What is clear is that, while people on the spectrum may not respond easily to external gestures/sounds, they do respond most readily if the initiative they witness is already part of their repertoire. This points to the selective use of incoming information rather than absence of recognition. It would appear that people with autism are actually rather good at recognition and imitation if the action they perceive is one that has meaning and significance for their brains. As regards the failure of empathetic response, it would appear that at least some people with autism are oversensitive to the feelings of others rather than immune to them, but cannot handle the painful feed-back that this initiates in the body, and have therefore learnt to suppress this facility." ("Letters", London "Times," Dec 30 2005)]
* Failure to demonstrate empathy can arise from inability (or not knowing how) to "express" empathy to others, as opposed to difficulty "feeling" it, internally.

With these possible exceptions noted, one would be grossly misled to infer that individuals with ASD's are generally exceptional empathizers when, quite to the contrary, research indicates the reverse. Research suggests that many ASD individuals have a lack of theory of mind [Beaumont, R. and Newcombe, P. (2006) Theory of mind and central coherence in adults with high-functioning autism or Asperger syndrome, Autism: The International Journal of Research & Practice 10.(4) 365-382] (ToM) and alexithymia (85% of those with ASD's have alexithymia), [Hill, E., Berthoz, S., & Frith, U (2004) 'Brief report: cognitive processing of own emotions in individuals with autistic spectrum disorder and in their relatives.' Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders 34, (2) 229-235.] both of which conditions involve severe deficits in the individual's ability to be empathetically attuned to others. Alexithymia involves not just the inability to verbally "express" emotions, but specifically the inability to "identify" emotional states in self or others. [Taylor, G.J. and Bagby, R.M & Parker, J.D.A. Disorders of Affect Regulation: Alexithymia in Medical and Psychiatric Illness. (1997) Cambridge Uni. Press.] However, research by Rogers et al. suggests that empathy needs to be differentiated between cognitive empathy and affective empathy in people with Asperger syndrome, suggesting autistic individuals have less developed understanding of the feeling of others, but demonstrate equally much empathy when aware of others state of mind, and respond more to stress experienced by other people than non-autistic people. [Rogers K, Dziobek I, Hassenstab J, Wolf OT, Convit A. Who cares? Revisiting empathy in Asperger syndrome. J Autism Dev Disord. 2007 Apr;37(4):709-15.]

One study found that, relative to typically developing children, high-functioning children with autism showed reduced mirror neuron activity in the brain's inferior frontal gyrus (pars opercularis) while imitating and observing emotional expressions. [Dapretto, M., Davies, M.S., Pfeifer, J.H., Scott, A.A., Sigman, M., Bookheimer, S.Y., & Iacoboni, M. (2006). Understanding emotions in others: mirror neuron dysfunction in children with autism spectrum disorders. Nature Neuroscience, 9, 28-31.] 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 should be taken with extreme caution, since it has not been replicated by other fMRI studies. [Bastiaanen, J., Thioux, M., & Keysers (2008). Mirror-neuron system not broken in adults with ASD for viewing emotions of others. Fifteen Cognitive Neuroscience Society Meeting, San Francisco, April.]

Practical issues

Empathic methods

Proper empathetic engagement is supposed to help to understand and anticipate the behavior of the other. 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).

* simulate 'pretend' versions of the beliefs, desires, character traits and context of the other and see what emotional feelings this leads to;
* simulate the emotional feeling and then look around for a suitable reason for this to fit.

Empathic accuracy

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. We are also more likely to empathize with those with whom we interact more frequently (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 husbands, among other topics.

In general, 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 we empathise. Accordingly, any knowledge we gain of the emotions of the other must be revisable in light of further information.

Ethical issues

It should be noted that the extent to which a person's emotions are publicly observable, or mutually recognised 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 ourselves 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. [Wyschogrod, E. 1981. Empathy and sympathy as tactile encounter. J Med Philos 6 (1):25-43]

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. Furthmore an awareness of the limitations of empathic accuracy is prudent in a caregiving situation.

Intense empathy

In addition to the above use, the term empathy is also used by some people to signify their heightened or higher sensitivity to the emotions and state of others. Empathy may be here conceptualised as the ability to fully "read" another person, completely translating each movement into understandable conversation. This, reportedly, can lead to both positive aspects such as a more skilled instinct for what is "behind the scenes" with people, but also to difficulties such as rapid over-stimulation, or overwhelming stress caused by an inability to protect oneself from this so-called 'pick-up'. Such people may for example find crowds stressful simply due to picking up what is often described as "white noise" or multiple emotions as they pass through it, a phenomenon not to be confused with agoraphobia and sometimes informally known as crowd-sickness. A recurrent theme of discussion on such websites relates to the impact upon individuals, and therefore also methods (including mental practices, emotional processes and ritual) which anecdotally can help reduce the intensity of empathic reactions to others' feelings to a more bearable level (informally called 'shielding' or emotional detachment).

Empathy in this sense is ascribed by such people to various mechanisms. These include simply more sophisticated subconscious processing of sensory cues or stronger emotional feedback than the norm, (i.e. the normal human experience but more so), and therefore fit within present models. Some people, perhaps due to synesthesia, believe it instead to be a direct emotional sense or a feel for others' "energy". The New Age religion(s) have constructed belief systems around anecdotal evidence of persons who claim to be empaths in this sense. This aspect of empathy is not clinically recognized, and someone calling themselves an "empath" usually does not intend to imply that they are gifted with any psychic ability.

In general empathy may be painful to oneself: seeing the pain of others, especially as broadcasted by mass media, can cause one temporary or permanent clinical depression; a phenomenon which is sometimes called "weltschmerz". However, since a basic emotional understanding of others is an important pre-requisite of human relationships, subjects face a dilemma to protect oneself from the pain of empathy or seek to relate to other humans despite the potential risk of injury.

Disciplinary approaches to empathy

Empathy and psychotherapy

Heinz Kohut 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. Fact|date=April 2008

Empathy and evolutionary psychology

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 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 regardless of whether it is in their self-interest to do so and even if the costs outweigh potential rewards. [cite book
last = Aronson
first = Elliot
authorlink = Elliot Aronson
coauthors = Wilson Timothy D., and Akert, Robin
title = Social Psychology, 6th Edition
publisher = Prentice Hall
date = 2007
isbn = 0132382458

Empathy and education

An important target by the method Learning by teaching (LdL) is to train systematically and in each lesson the students-empathy. They have to transmit new contents to the classmates, so they have to reflect continuously on the mental processes by the other students in the classroom. This way - in addition - it is possible to develop step by step the students-feeling for group-reactions and networking.

Empathy and animals

Some students of animal behavior claim that empathy is not restricted to humans as the definition implies. Examples include dolphins saving humans (sympathy) from drowning or from shark attacks, and a multitude of behaviors observed in primates, both in captivity and in the wild. See, for instance, the popular book "The Ape and the Sushi Master" by Frans de Waal. Rodents have been shown to demonstrate empathy for cagemates (but not strangers) in pain. [cite journal | author=Dale J. Langford, Sara E. Crager, Zarrar Shehzad, Shad B. Smith, Susana G. Sotocinal, Jeremy S. Levenstadt, Mona Lisa Chanda, Daniel J. Levitin, Jeffrey S. Mogil| year=2006 | title=Social Modulation of Pain as Evidence for Empathy in Mice | journal=Science | volume=312 | date=June 30, 2006 | pages=1967–1970 | doi=10.1126/science.1128322 | pmid=16809545]

Furthermore people can empathize with animals. As such, empathy is thought to be a driving psychological force behind the animal rights movement (an example of sympathy), whether or not using empathy is justified by any real similarity between the emotional experiences of animals and humans.Fact|date=April 2008

Empathy and 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 and fantasy, empathy is understood to be a paranormal or psychic ability to sense the emotions of others, as opposed to telepathy, which allows one to perceive thoughts as well. A person who has that ability is also called an "empath" or "telempath" in this context. Occasionally these empaths are also able to project their own emotions, or to affect the emotions of others.

Empathy and history

Some postmodern historians such as Keith Jenkins 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'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 bygone ages we are unable to empathise. [Jenkins, K. (1991) "Re-thinking History" London: Routledge ] The reader will not be astonished at the conclusive issue about empathy and history. Only events and their products meet or not empathy. It is impossible to forecast the effect of empathy on the future. We can pay attention to the means of language of telling events. We above checked a contemporary subject may not take part in the past. 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. [Pozzi, G. (1976) "Prefazione 6.L'elemento storico e politico -sociale, in G.B. Marino, L'Adone" Milano ] The way of making the study of empathy functional is still long.

Empathy and moral theory

In research published in 2007 in the 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.

Empathy and music

The metaphor of musical resonance reinforces certain ideas around empathy that are often misconstrued. Gauss, suggests that, “In popular usage the idea refers to the emotional resonance between two people, when, like strings tuned to the same frequency, each responds in perfect sympathy to the other and each reinforces the responses of the other” [Gauss, Charles Edward. 1973. Empathy. In Dictionary of the history of ideas: Studies of selected pivotal ideas, edited by P. P. Wiener. New York: Scribner. 85-89.]

However, within the musical semantic universe, the better metaphor is that of overtones and undertones, by which an instrument incapable of replicating a particular frequency (pitch) a nevertheless resonate with pitches sharing certain harmonic structures. Harmonic resonance, unlike pitch replication, suggests appropriate differentiation between the two instruments, between model and beholder, while retaining a sense that some accuracy is required.

Interestingly, one Chinese translation for empathy contains the two characters not for the replication of pitch, but for harmonic resonance. This Chinese translation aligns with the forms of empathy which arise intuitively or non-cognitively.Fact|date=April 2008

Empathy in phenomenology

In phenomenology, empathy is used to describe the experience in which one experiences what the Other experiences. It should not, however, be understood as some kind of magical or telepathic connection, but rather as the experience of experiencing something from the Other's viewpoint, as "me over there," as it were. It is considered to be the condition of intersubjectivity, and, as such, the source of the constitution of objectivity.

Notable theorists of empathy

*Edith Stein: "Empathy… is the experience of foreign consciousness in general" [Stein, E. (1989). "On the problem of empathy", p. 11. Washington: ICS Publications. (Original work published 1917)]

*Heinz Kohut: "Empathy is the capacity to think and feel oneself into the inner life of another person." [cite book|last=Kohut|first=Heinz |authorlink=Heinz Kohut|coauthors=Goldberg, Arnold, and Stepansky, Paul E. |title=How Does Analysis Cure?|publisher=University of Chicago Press|isbn=0226450341]

*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" [Eisenberg, N. (2002). "Empathy-related emotional responses, altruism, and their socialization". In R. J. Davidson & A. Harrington (Eds.). "Visions of compassion: Western scientists and Tibetan Buddhists examine human nature". (pp. 135; 131-164). London: Oxford University Press.]

*Roy Schafer: "Empathy involves the inner experience of sharing in and comprehending the momentary psychological state of another person." [Schafer, R. (1959). "Generative empathy in the treatment situation". The Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 28, pp. 345; 342-373.]

*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 oneself in another’s shoes." [Berger, D. M. (1987). "Clinical empathy". Northvale: Jason Aronson, Inc.]

*R. R. Greenson: "To empathize means to share, to experience the feelings of another person." [Greenson, R. R. (1960). "Empathy and its vicissitudes". "International Journal of Psychoanalysis", 41, pp. 418; 418-424]

*Wynn Schwartz: "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." [ Schwartz, W.,(2002) "From passivity to competence: A conceptualization of knowledge, skill, tolerance, and empathy". "Psychiatry" 65(4) pp. 338-345. ]

*Carl Rogers: "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." [Rogers, C. R. (1959). "A theory of therapy, personality and interpersonal relationships, as developed in the client-centered framework". In S. Koch (Ed.), "Psychology: A study of science", (Vol. 3, pp. 210-211; 184-256). New York: Mc Graw Hill.]

*Jean Decety: "a sense of similarity in feelings experienced by the self and the other, without confusion between the two individuals." [ (Decety, J., & Jackson, P.L. (2004). The functional architecture of human empathy. Behavioral and Cognitive Neuroscience Reviews, 3, 71-100.]

*Martin Hoffman: "An affective response more appropriate to another's situation than one's own." [cite book |last=Hoffman |first=Martin |authorlink=Martin Hoffman |title=Empathy and moral development: Implications for caring and justice |year=2000 |publisher=Cambridge University Press |location=New York |isbn=978-0521012973 ]

ee also

* Alexithymia
* Affect display
* Charisma
* Compersion
* Introjection
* Psychology
* Antisocial personality disorder
* Folk psychology
* Theory of mind
* Emotional intelligence
* Emotional intelligence tests
* Emotional competence
* Intercultural competence
* John D. Mayer
* Jean Decety
* Marshall Rosenberg
* Peter Salovey
* Daniel Goleman
* Machiavellian intelligence
* Spatial empathy



*Andréasson, P., & Dimberg, U. (2008). [http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10919-008-0052-z Emotional empathy and facial feedback] . "Journal of Nonverbal Behavior".
* Austin, J. L. (1979). 'Other Minds'. In "Philosophical Papers". Oxford: Oxford University Press: 76-116.
* Batson, C. D., Håkansson Eklund, J., Chermok, V. L., Hoyt, J. L., & Ortiz, B. G. (2007). [http://content.apa.org/journals/psp/93/1/65 An additional antecedent of empathic concern: Valuing the welfare of the person in need.] Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 93(1), 65-74.
* B. Bower "Goal-oriented brain cells: neurons may track action as a prelude to empathy" in "Science News", April 30, 2005
* Corazza, Eros (2004). "Empathy, Imagination, and Reports". Chapter 7 in "Reflecting the Mind - Indexicality and Quasi-Indexicality". Oxford University Press, Oxford.
* Currie, Greg (2004). "Anne Brontë and the uses of imagination". Chapter 9 in Arts and Minds. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
* Currie, Greg & Ravenscroft, Ian (2002). Recreative Minds: Imagination in Philosophy and Psychology. Oxford: Clarendon Press.
* Dapretto, M. et al. (2006). Understanding emotions in others: Mirror neuron dysfunction in children with autism spectrum disorders. "Nature Neuroscience, 9", 28-30.
* Davis, Mark H. (1996). "Empathy: A Social-Psychological Approach". Westview.
* Decety, J., & Jackson, P.L. (2004). The functional architecture of human empathy. Behavioral and Cognitive Neuroscience Reviews, 3, 71-100.
* Decety, J., & Lamm, C. (2006). Human empathy through the lens of social neuroscience. The Scientific World Journal, 6, 1146–1163.
* Feldman, R.S. (1997). "Development across the life span". Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.
* Goldie, Peter (2000). "The Emotions, A Philosophical Exploration". Clarendon Press, Oxford.
* Håkansson, J., & Montgomery, H. (2003). Empathy as an interpersonal phenomenon. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 20(3), 267-284.
* Hoffman, M. L. (1978), "Empathy, Its Development and Prosocial Implications", in C. B. Keasey (ed.), "Nebraska Symposium on Motivation", 25: 169-218.
* Hoffman, M. L. (2000), "Empathy and Moral Development" (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press).
* Hojat, M (2007), "Empathy in Patient Care - Antecedentsm Development, Measurement and Outcome". Springer Science 2007
* Ickes, W. (Ed.) (1997). "Empathic Accuracy". Guilford Press, New York.
* Ickes, W. (2003). "Everyday Mind Reading: Understanding What Other People Think and Feel". Prometheus Books.
* Jackson, P.L., Brunet, E., Meltzoff, A.N., & Decety, J. (2006). Empathy examined through the neural mechanisms involved in imagining how I feel versus how you feel pain: An event-related fMRI study. Neuropsychologia, 44, 752-61.
* Keen, Suzanne (2007). "Empathy and the Novel". Oxford University Press.
* Lamm, C., Batson, C.D., & Decety, J. (2007). The neural basis of human empathy – Effects of perspective-taking and cognitive appraisal. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 19, 42-58.
* Lampert, K.(2005); Traditions of Compassion: From Religious Duty to Social Activism. Palgrave-Macmillan; ISBN 1-4039-8527-8
* Levenson, R. W. and Reuf, A. M. (1997), "Physiological Aspects of Emotional Knowledge and Rapport", in W. Ickes (Ed.), "Empathic Accuracy" (New York: Guilford), 44-72.
* Rose Rosetree (2001), "Empowered by Empathy". Women's Intuition Worldwide, ISBN 0-9651145-8-9.
* Stein, Edith (1917), "On the problem of empathy". ICS Publications, Washington, 1989, ISBN 0-935216-11-1
* Evan Thompson (ed.)(2001), "Between Ourselves. Second-Person Issues in the Study of Consciousness", Imprint Academic, 2001 ISBN 0 907845 14 2; "Journal of Consciousness studies", 8, number 5-7, 2001 ISSN 1355 8250
* Slote, Michael (2007). "The Ethics of Care and Empathy."

External links

* [http://www.percepp.com/lovempat.htm Evolutionary Aspects of Love and Empathy]
* [http://healing.about.com/od/empathic/a/empathessential.htm The Joys and Pitfalls of Being an Empath]
* [http://www.empathy.se/Empathyeng/nyhetereng.htm News about empathy]
* [http://etext.lib.virginia.edu/cgi-local/DHI/dhi.cgi?id=dv2-09 "Dictionary of the History of Ideas":] Empathy
* [http://www.cnr.berkeley.edu/ucce50/ag-labor/7article/article40.htm Empathic listening skills] How to listen so others will feel heard, or listening first aid (University of California). Download a one hour seminar on empathic listening and attending skills.
* [http://www.empathy.se/Empathyeng/litteratureng.htm Literature about empathy] Articles, books, and book chapters about empathy
* [http://www.empathogens.com/empathy/animal.html Empathy as a basic brain function (New Scientist, 2004)]
* [http://www.naturalchild.org/robin_grille/eq_1.html IQ is Only Half The Picture: Cultivating your Child's Emotional Intelligence]
* To hear a definition of empathy given by Marshall Rosenberg (Nonviolent communication), through a parallel between [http://nvc-europe.org/SPIP/spip.php?article141 empathy and surf] .
* [http://www.empathysymbol.com The Empathy Symbol] Just like the peace symbol, there is now an empathy symbol.
* [http://www.psychology.su.se/staff/jh/dissertation.pdf Exploring the phenomenon of empathy] Doctoral Dissertation
* [http://www.empathize.org Empathize] Empathize promotes the use of cooperative learning in schools as well as the building of schools in Cyprus and Jerusalem for the children of opposing governments.
* [http://www.philosophynow.org/issue52/52mcnabb.htm The Paradox of Empathy] Discussion about whether it is possible to empathize with another.
* [http://www.empathy.se/Empathyeng/index.htm The Swedish Empathy Center] Organizes knowledge about empathy across disciplines
* [http://peacecenter.berkeley.edu/greatergood/archive/2005fallwinter/ Greater Good magazine article examines human empathy] Articles about empathy
* [http://www.livescience.com/health/070617_touching_faces.html Study: People Literally Feel Pain of Others - mirror-touch synesthesia] Live Science, 17 June 2007

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