Empathy

Definition

Today, empathy is generally considered to be the ability to view another’s perspective from the first person, using “an emotional, embodied, or experiential aspect” ([1] ).

Historically, empathy comes from of the German Einfühlung, or “feeling into,” and while the meaning has evolved and split since first coined by Robert Vischer in 1886 to discuss aesthetic value ([2] ), most fall somewhere within two areas, and speak to our ability as primates to live in social groups ([3] ).

Affective empathy, or resonant empathy, is the ability to feel as another feels. Zaki et al. conducted a study in 2009 establishing that the mirror neuron system is responsible for resonant empathy ( [4] ), ( [5] ), and ([6] ).* Cognitive empathy or perspective taking, is the ability to imagine what another is thinking or feeling ([7] ). This is most closely associated with activity in the right Temoro-Pariteal Juncture or the rTPJ ([8] ), ([9] ), ([10] ), and ([11] ).

Combined, these create empathic inference. Empathic inference is the ability to correctly assess another person’s thoughts or emotions ([12] ).
empathy-300x257.jpg
Neural Substrate
In 2009, Zaki and his team established the mirror neuron system as responsible for resonant empathy ([13] ), ([14] ). Resonant empathy occurs “predominantly on a subconscious level of awareness and appears to be functionally linked to the activity of mirror neurons located in the parietal and inferior frontal cortical areas” ([15] ).

Cognitive empathy is most closely associated with activity in the right Temoro-Pariteal Juncture or the rTPJ ([16] ), ([17] ), ([18] ), and ([19] ).

The absence of empathy is frequently, though not always, linked to “aggressive and acquisitive behaviors that ignore the rights or suering of others” ([20] ). A notable exception to this is with people on the Autism Spectrum, where empathy deficits are linked to social withdrawal, not aggression, violence, or criminal behavior.

Anthropology and Empathy
Within anthropology, empathy is studied in relation to disorders such as autism or schizophrenia, and health care related issues such as patient/caregiver interactions within biomedicine ( [21] ) as well as cross-culturally ([22] ), in theories of psychopathology ([23] ), and in intersubjectivity ([24]). Empathy is also studied cross-culturally by ethnographers who look at the differences between interpretations of empathy at a cultural level ([25] ), ([26] ) as well as critically concerning ethnographers use of the term empathy to cover their own transference ([27] ). Biological anthropologists have studied empathy in relation to human evolution ([28] ). In “Whatever Happened to Empathy,” Hollan and Throop argue that it is time for a renaissance in the study of empathy within anthropology, pointing out its relevance to life path theory as well as evolutionary modeling, and asking “what processes of dehumanization allow one human to do overt and extreme harm to another” ([29] ).

Case Studies/Examples
Deficits of empathy are found in male partners who batter their spouses, though they display normal empathy toward other women ([30] ), ([31] ). Clements, et al. examined whether males who batter their partners have empathic accuracy toward those partners. They separated 71 couples into three groups, Violent, Non-Violent/Distressed, and Non-Violent/Non-Distressed. They taped each pair in conversation over a topic that was pre-determined to elicit a stressed response. Afterwards, they were separated and each watched the tapes, stopping them whenever they remembered a thought or an emotion and writing that down.

Next they watched the tape again, while it was paused at the partner’s stops, so that they could write down what they thought she was thinking or feeling. The men were also shown stimulus tapes of two unknown women, discussing their divorces with their psychiatrists and similar data was generated. Neutral observers, matched to the subjects by gender, also watched the husbands’ or wives’ tapes to create a neutral control group. They found that the violent wife scored within the same range as did the observers, the NV/D and NV/ND women, though they did better than the control group did at rating the violent husbands because violent men were harder for the objective observers to read.

Battering husbands had a normal level of empathic accuracy with strange women, but performed significantly below that with their own wives. Furthermore, they were not randomly inaccurate. Instead, they saw their own wives’ expressions as rejecting, scornful, or disdainful, but they saw other woman’s expressions with the same level of accuracy that neutral observers did ([32] .).

Cognitive empathy, the ability to read intentionality, has been shown to be controlled, at least in part, by the right Temporoparietal Junction (rTPJ).
RTPJ.jpeg
Saxe demonstrates in her research that suppression of the rTPJ can make it difficult for an individual to correctly distinguish another person’s actions from intents.

Rebecca Saxe “How We Read Each Other’s Minds”


Related Terms/Pages

Empathy is most noticeable when partially or totally absent. Empathy deficits are notable in people with Narcissistic Personality Disorder ([33] ), Psychopathy ([34] ), ([35] ), Juvenile Conduct Disorder and Autism ([36] ) ([37] ), Antisocial Personality Disorder ([38] ), with Schizophrenia ([39] ), ([40] ), or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder ([41] ), ([42] ), & ([43] ) and after traumatic brain injury ([44] ).

Online Resources-


When Empathy Fails-“Zero Degrees of Empathy”



A Hormonal Basis for Empathy - “The Moral Molecule”


Animal Studies:

Empathy Studies in Rats












In Primates:














Further Reading


"What Ever Happened to Empathy?"

References
  1. ^ Hollan, D, and CJ Throop. n.d. 2008. "Whatever Happened to Empathy?: Introduction." Ethos 36, no. 4: 385-401.
  2. ^ Craig, Robert M. 2003. "Bernard Maybeck and 19th Century Theories of Empathy." Southeastern College Art Conference Review 14, no. 3: 219-228.
  3. ^ Carter, C. Sue, James Harris, and Stephen W Porges. “Neural and Evolutionary Perspective on Empathy”. 2011. Jean Decety & William Ickes (Eds.) The Social Neuroscience of Empathy. MIT Press: pp. 170-89
  4. ^ Zaki, Jamil, Jochen Weber, Niall Bolger, Kevin Ochsner and Michael I. Posner. 2009. “The Neural Basis of Empathetic Accuracy”. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, Vol. 106, No. 27 (Jul. 7): pp. 11382-7.
  5. ^ Brook, Michael, and David S. Kosson. 2013. "Impaired cognitive empathy in criminal psychopathy: Evidence from a laboratory measure of empathic accuracy." Journal of Abnormal Psychology 122, no. 1: 156-166.
  6. ^ Decety J., & Jackson, P.L. 2004. “The Functional Architecture of Human Empathy”. Behavioral Cognition Neuroscience Rev. 3: pp.71-100.
  7. ^
    Shamay-Tsoory, Simone G., Syvan Shur, Hagai Harari, and Yechiel Levkovitz. 2007. "Neurocognitive basis of impaired empathy in schizophrenia." Neuropsychology 21, no. 4: 431-438.
  8. ^ Brook, Michael, and David S. Kosson. 2013. "Impaired cognitive empathy in criminal psychopathy: Evidence from a laboratory measure of empathic accuracy." Journal of Abnormal Psychology 122, no. 1: 156-166.
  9. ^ Decety J., & Jackson, P.L. 2004. “The Functional Architecture of Human Empathy”. Behavioral Cognition Neuroscience Rev. 3: pp.71-100.
  10. ^ Saxe, Rebecca R., Susan Whitfield-Gabrieli, Jonathan Scholz, and Kevin A. Pelphrey. 2009. "Brain Regions for Perceiving and Reasoning about Other People in School-Aged Children." Child Development no. 4: pp. 1196-209.
  11. ^ Zaki, Jamil, Jochen Weber, Niall Bolger, Kevin Ochsner and Michael I. Posner. 2009. “The Neural Basis of Empathetic Accuracy”. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, Vol. 106, No. 27 (Jul. 7): pp. 11382-7.
  12. ^
    Ickes, William John. 1997. Empathic Accuracy. n.p.: New York: Guilford Press.
  13. ^
    Zaki, Jamil, Jochen Weber, Niall Bolger, Kevin Ochsner and Michael I. Posner. 2009. “The Neural Basis of Empathetic Accuracy”. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, Vol. 106, No. 27 (Jul. 7): pp. 11382-7.
  14. ^ Decety J., & Jackson, P.L. 2004. “The Functional Architecture of Human Empathy”. Behavioral Cognition Neuroscience Rev. 3: pp.71-100.
  15. ^ Brook, Michael, and David S. Kosson. 2013. "Impaired cognitive empathy in criminal psychopathy: Evidence from a laboratory measure of empathic accuracy." Journal of Abnormal Psychology 122, no. 1: 156-166.
  16. ^
    Brook, Michael, and David S. Kosson. 2013. "Impaired cognitive empathy in criminal psychopathy: Evidence from a laboratory measure of empathic accuracy." Journal of Abnormal Psychology 122, no. 1: 156-166.
  17. ^ Decety J., & Jackson, P.L. 2004. “The Functional Architecture of Human Empathy”. Behavioral Cognition Neuroscience Rev. 3: pp.71-100.
  18. ^ Saxe, Rebecca R., Susan Whitfield-Gabrieli, Jonathan Scholz, and Kevin A. Pelphrey. 2009. "Brain Regions for Perceiving and Reasoning about Other People in School-Aged Children." Child Development no. 4: pp. 1196-209.
  19. ^ Zaki, Jamil, Jochen Weber, Niall Bolger, Kevin Ochsner and Michael I. Posner. 2009. “The Neural Basis of Empathetic Accuracy”. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, Vol. 106, No. 27 (Jul. 7): pp. 11382-7.
  20. ^
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  22. ^ Connor, L. n.d. 2009. "Empathy and Healing: Essays in Medical Anthropology and Narrative Anthropology." Australian Journal of Anthropology 20, no. 2: 256-258.
  23. ^ Kirmayer, LJ. n.d. 2009. "Empathy and Alterity in Cultural Psychiatry." Ethos 36, no. 4: 457-474.
  24. ^ Finlay, Linda. 2005. "Reflexive Embodied Empathy": A Phenomenology of Participant-Researcher Intersubjectivity." Humanistic Psychologist 33, no. 4: 271.
  25. ^ Throop, C. Jason. 2010. Suffering and sentiment : exploring the vicissitudes of experience and pain in Yap / C. Jason Throop. n.p.: Berkeley : University of California Press, c2010.
  26. ^ Groark, Christina J., Robert B. McCall, and Larry Fish. 2011. "Characteristics of environments, caregivers, and children in three Central American orphanages." Infant Mental Health Journal 32, no. 2: 232-250.
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    Geertz, Clifford. 1974. "'From the Native's Point of View': On the Nature of Anthropological Understanding." Bulletin of The American Academy Of Arts And Sciences no. 1: 26.
  28. ^ Van Slyke, James A. 2010. "Cognitive and Evolutionary Factors in the Emergence Of Human Altruism." Zygon: Journal of Religion & Science 45, no. 4: 841-859.
  29. ^ Hollan, D. and Throop, C. J. (2008), Whatever Happened to Empathy?: Introduction. Ethos, 36: 385–401.
  30. ^
    Clements, Kahni, Amy Holtzworth-Munroe, William Schweinle, and William Ickes. 2007. "Empathic Accuracy of Intimate Partners in Violent versus Nonviolent Relationships." Personal Relationships// 14, no. 3: pp. 369-88.
  31. ^ Schweinle, William E., and William Ickes. 2007. “The Role of Men's Critical/Rejecting Overattribution Bias, Affect, and Attentional Disengagement in Marital Aggression”. Journal of Social & Clinical Psychology 26, no. 2: pp. 173-98
  32. ^
    Clements, Kahni, Amy Holtzworth-Munroe, William Schweinle, and William Ickes. 2007. "Empathic Accuracy of Intimate Partners in Violent versus Nonviolent Relationships." Personal Relationships 14, no. 3: pp. 369-88.
  33. ^
    Ritter, Kathrin, Isabel Dziobek, Sandra Preißler, Anke Rüter, Aline Vater, Thomas Fydrich, Lammers Claas-Hinrich, Hauke R. Heekeren, and Stefan Roepke. n.d. 2011. "Lack of empathy in patients with narcissistic personality disorder." Psychiatry Research 187, 241-247.
  34. ^ Blair, R.J.R. 2005. “Responding to the Emotions of Others: Dissociating forms of empathy through the study of typical and psychiatric populations”. Consciousness and Cognition, Volume 14, Issue 4, December: pp. 698-718.
  35. ^ Brook, Michael, and David S. Kosson. 2013. "Impaired cognitive empathy in criminal psychopathy: Evidence from a laboratory measure of empathic accuracy." Journal of Abnormal Psychology 122, no. 1: 156-166.
  36. ^ Bons, D, E van den Broek, F Scheepers, P Herpers, N Rommelse, and JK Buitelaaar. n.d. 2013. "Motor, Emotional, and Cognitive Empathy in Children and Adolescents with Autism Spectrum Disorder and Conduct Disorder." Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology 41, no. 3: 425-443.
  37. ^ Blair, R.J.R. 2005. “Responding to the Emotions of Others: Dissociating forms of empathy through the study of typical and psychiatric populations”. Consciousness and Cognition, Volume 14, Issue 4, December: pp. 698-718.
  38. ^ Marshall, L.E., and W.L. Marshall. 2011. "Empathy and Antisocial Behaviour." Journal of Forensic Psychiatry & Psychology 22, no. 5: 742-759.
  39. ^ Lee, j. J. Zaki, P.-O. Harvey, K. Ochsner and M. F. Green. 2011. “Schizophrenia Patients are Impaired in Empathic Accuracy”. Psychological Medicine, 41: pp. 2297-304.
  40. ^ Shamay-Tsoory, Simone G., Syvan Shur, Hagai Harari, and Yechiel Levkovitz. 2007. "Neurocognitive Basis of Impaired Empathy in Schizophrenia." Neuropsychology 21, no. 4: 431-438.
  41. ^ Armony, Jorge L., Vincent Corbo, Marie-Hélène Clément, Alain Brunet. 2005. “Amygdala Response in Patients with Acute PTSD to Masked and Unmasked Emotional Facial Expressions.” The American Journal of Psychiatry, 162: pp.1961-1963.
  42. ^ Lambert, Jessica E., Rachel Engh, Amber Hasbun, and Jessica Holzer. 2012. "Impact of posttraumatic Stress Disorder on the Relationship Quality and Psychological Distress of Intimate Partners: A meta-analytic review." Journal of Family Psychology 26, no. 5: pp. 729-737.
  43. ^ Nietlisbach, Gabriela, Andreas Maercker, Wulf Rössler, and Helene Haker. 2010. “Are Empathic Abilities Impaired in Posttraumatic Stress Disorder?”. Psychological Reports: Volume 106, Issue3: pp. 832-44.
  44. ^ de Sousa, Arielle, Skye McDonald, Jacqueline Rushby, Sophie Li, Aneta Dimoska, and Charlotte James. n.d. 2011. "Research Report: Understanding deficits in empathy after traumatic brain injury: The role of affective responsivity." Cortex 47, 526-535.