Titchener into the English term empathy. Thus alexithymia literally means "pushing away your emotions". Definitions[ edit ] Empathy has many definitions that encompass a broad range of emotional states, including caring for other people and having a desire to help them; experiencing emotions that match another person's emotions; discerning what another person is thinking or feeling;  and making less distinct the differences between the self and the other.
Some believe that empathy involves the ability to match another's emotions, while others believe that empathy involves being tenderhearted toward another person. Past experiences have an influence on the decision making of today. Understanding this allows a person to have empathy for individuals who sometimes make illogical decisions to a problem that most individuals would respond with an obvious response.
Broken homes, childhood trauma, lack of parenting and many others factors can influence the connections in the brain which a person uses to make decisions in the future. According to Hoffman everyone is born with the capability of feeling empathy. Definitions vary, contributing to the challenge of defining empathy.
Compassion is often defined as an emotion we feel when others are in need, which motivates us to help them. Sympathy is a feeling of care and understanding for someone in need. Some include in sympathy an empathic concern , a feeling of concern for another, in which some scholars include the wish to see them better off or happier. 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.
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.
Empathy necessarily has a "more or less" quality. The paradigm case of an empathic interaction, however, involves a person communicating an accurate recognition of the significance of another person's ongoing intentional actions, associated emotional states, and personal characteristics in a manner that the recognized person can tolerate.
Recognitions that are both accurate and tolerable are central features of empathy. In the field of positive psychology, empathy has also been compared with altruism and egotism. Altruism is behavior that is aimed at benefitting another person, while egotism is a behavior that is acted out for personal gain.
Sometimes, when someone is feeling empathetic towards another person, acts of altruism occur. However, many question whether or not these acts of altruism are motivated by egotistical gains. According to positive psychologists, people can be adequately moved by their empathies to be altruistic. Both males and females with autistic spectrum disorders usually score lower on the EQ and SQ see below for more detail on autism and empathy.
In addition, these aforementioned studies found that female participants tended to score higher on empathy self-report dispositional measures and that these measures positively correlated with the physiological response. Other studies show no significant difference, and instead suggest that gender differences are the result of motivational differences.
According to the Primary Caretaker Hypothesis, prehistoric males did not have the same selective pressure as primary caretakers; so therefore this might explain modern day sex differences in emotion recognition and empathy. Researchers found that cognitive empathy, rather than emotional empathy, predicted helping behavior towards victims. Consequently, the negative state relief model would predict substantial helping among imagine-set subjects in the same condition, which is what occurred.
An intriguing question arises from such findings concerning whether it is possible to have mixed motivations for helping. If this is the case, then simultaneous egoistic and altruistic motivations would occur. This would allow for a stronger sadness-based motivation to obscure the effects of an empathic concern-based altruistic motivation. The observed study would then have sadness as less intense than more salient altruistic motivation. Consequently, relative strengths of different emotional reactions, systematically related to the need situation, may moderate the predominance of egoistic or altruistic motivation Dovidio, But it has been shown that researchers in this area who have used very similar procedures sometimes obtain apparently contradictory results.
Superficial procedural differences such as precisely when a manipulation is introduced could also lead to divergent results and conclusions. It is therefore vital for any future research to move toward even greater standardization of measurement.
Thus, an important step in solving the current theoretical debate concerning the existence of altruism may involve reaching common methodological ground. Studies today enable us to see the activation of mirror neurons and attempt to explain the basic processes of empathy. By isolating these mirror neurons and measuring the neural basis for human mind reading and emotion sharing abilities,  science has come one step closer to finding the reason for reactions like empathy.
Neuroscientists have already discovered that people scoring high on empathy tests have especially busy mirror neuron systems in their brains Dr. In a way we mirror or mimic the emotional response that we would expect to feel in that condition or context, much like sympathy.
Unlike personal distress, empathy is not characterized by aversion to another's emotional response. Additionally, empathizing with someone requires a distinctly sympathetic reaction where personal distress demands avoidance of distressing matters. This distinction is vital because empathy is associated with the moral emotion sympathy, or empathetic concern, and consequently also prosocial or altruistic action. In empathy we feel what we believe are the emotions of another, which makes it both affective and cognitive by most psychologists.
For social beings, negotiating interpersonal decisions is as important to survival as being able to navigate the physical landscape. Additionally, recent research has shown individuals who report regular experiences of gratitude engage more frequently in prosocial behaviors. Positive emotions like empathy or gratitude are linked to a more positive continual state and these people are far more likely to help others than those not experiencing a positive emotional state. Measures of empathy show that mirror neurons are activated during arousal of sympathetic responses and prolonged activation shows increased probability to help others.
Another growing focus of investigation is how empathy manifests in education between teachers and learners. This theory also states that empathy is learnable. However, research also shows that it is more difficult to empathize when there are differences between people including status, culture, religion, language, skin colour, gender, age and so on.
One study hypothesized that empathy training would increase the measured level of relational empathy among the individuals in the experimental group when compared to the control group. Using these measures, the study found that empathy training was not successful in increasing relational empathy. Also, communication and satisfaction among groups did not increase as a result of the empathy training.
The environment has been another interesting topic of study. Many theorize that environmental factors, such as parenting style and relationships, play a significant role in the development of empathy in children. Empathy promotes pro social relationships, helps mediate aggression, and allows us to relate to others, all of which make empathy an important emotion among children.
A study done by Caroline Tisot looked at how a variety of environmental factors affected the development of empathy in young children. Parenting style, parent empathy, and prior social experiences were looked at. The children participating in the study were asked to complete an effective empathy measure, while the children's parents completed the Parenting Practices Questionnaire, which assesses parenting style, and the Balanced Emotional Empathy scale.
This study found that a few parenting practices — as opposed to parenting style as a whole — contributed to the development of empathy in children. These practices include encouraging the child to imagine the perspectives of others and teaching the child to reflect on his or her own feelings. The results also show that the development of empathy varied based on the gender of the child and parent.
Paternal warmth was found to be significantly important, and was positively related to empathy within children, especially in boys. Interestingly, however, maternal warmth was negatively related to empathy within children, especially in girls.
In most cases empathy is usually impaired if a lesion or stroke occurs on the right side of the brain. Applications[ edit ] The empathy-altruism relationship also has broad for whom empathy is felt at the expense of other potential pro-social goals, thus inducing a type of bias. Researchers suggest that individuals are willing to act against the greater collective good or to violate their own moral principles of fairness and justice if doing so will benefit a person for whom empathy is felt.
Empathy-based socialization is very different from current practices directed toward inhibition of egoistic impulses through shaping, modeling and internalized guilt.
Therapeutic programs built around facilitating altruistic impulses by encouraging perspective taking and empathetic feelings might enable individuals to develop more satisfactory interpersonal relations, especially in the long-term.
At a societal level, experiments have indicated that empathy-induced altruism can be used to improve attitudes toward stigmatized groups, even used to improve racial attitudes, actions toward people with AIDS, the homeless and even convicts. Such resulting altruism has also been found to increase cooperation in competitive situations. Infants respond to the distress of others by getting distressed themselves; only when they are 2 years old do they start to respond in other-oriented ways, trying to help, comfort and share.
Psychopathy and narcissism have been associated with impairments in affective but not cognitive empathy, whereas bipolar disorder and borderline traits have been associated with deficits in cognitive but not affective empathy. It comprises a self-report questionnaire of 28 items, divided into four 7-item scales covering the above subdivisions of affective and cognitive empathy.
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 who used functional magnetic resonance imaging fMRI , children between the ages of 7 and 12 years appear to be naturally inclined to feel empathy for others in pain.
Their findings  are 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.
Individuals with autism often find using a theory of mind very difficult e. 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.
Recent years have seen increased movement toward the idea that empathy occurs from motor neuron imitation. But, how do we account for individual differences in empathy? It cannot be said that empathy is a single unipolar construct but rather a set of constructs. In essence, not every individual responds equally and uniformly the same to various circumstances.
The Empathic Concern scale assesses "other-oriented" feelings of sympathy and concern and the Personal Distress scale measures "self-oriented" feelings of personal anxiety and unease. The combination of these scales helps reveal those that might not be classified as empathetic and expands the narrow definition of empathy. Using this approach we can enlarge the basis of what it means to possess empathetic qualities and create a multi-faceted definition.
For instance, functional magnetic resonance imaging fMRI has been employed to investigate the functional anatomy of empathy. In their paper, they argue 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 idea of perception-action-coupling ,  unless inhibited.
This mechanism is similar to the common coding theory between perception and action.