Empathy refers to the capacity to understand or feel what another person is experiencing from within their frame of reference, that is, the capacity to place oneself in another’s position.


It is a spontaneous sharing of affect, caused by witnessing and sympathizing with another’s emotional state. 


Empathy helps an individual understand and anticipate the behavior of another. 

There are two distinct types of empathy which people use to relate to each other which are referred to as hot and cold empathy.

Cold empathy refers to the understanding of how others might react to one’s actions or a certain event.

Hot empathy refers to the emotional reaction others might have to the emotions of another person. 

Empathy includes: cognitive, emotional and somatic empathy.


Empathy terminology encompasses a 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.


It refers to the ability to feel and share another person’s emotions. and allows a one to have empathy for individuals who sometimes make illogical decisions to a problem that most individuals would respond with an obvious response. 


Everyone is born with the capability of feeling empathy.


Empathy involves understanding the emotional states of other people, and is characterized by emotions themselves.


Empathy may be characterized by bodily feelings, then grasping the bodily feelings of another will be central to empathy. 


If emotions are characterized by a combination of beliefs and desires, then acquiring these beliefs and desires will be more essential to empathy. 


The ability to imagine oneself as another person is a  complex imaginative process, however, the 


 capacity to recognize emotions is probably innate and unconscious.


Empathy can be trained and achieved with various success.


The capacity to recognize the bodily feelings of another is related to one’s imitative capacities, and seems to be grounded in an 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.


There is an immediate connection between the tone of voice and other vocal expressions and inner feeling.


Compassion is often defined as an emotion people feel when others are in need, which motivates people 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  to help.


It is not the same as pity or emotional contagion.


Pity is a feeling that one feels towards others in trouble or in need, but they cannot fix their problems themselves.


Alexithymia refers to a deficiency in understanding, processing or describing emotions in oneself, unlike empathy which is about someone else.


Affective empathy is also called emotional empathy.


Affective empathy is the capacity to respond with an appropriate emotion to another’s mental state.


Empathy is based on emotional contagion, that is it is affected by another’s emotional or arousal state.


Empathic concern manifests as sympathy and compassion for others in response to their suffering.


There is self-centered feelings of discomfort and anxiety in response to another’s suffering


Infants respond to the distress of others by getting distressed themselves


Infants, at 2 years of age begin to respond in other-oriented ways, trying to help, comfort and share.


Cognitive empathy refers to them the capacity to understand another’s perspective or mental state.


Affective and cognitive empathy are also independent processses: one can empathize emotionally, but not necessarily have a good understanding another’s perspective.


Cognitive empathy can be subdivided: 












Empathy is not restricted to humans.


Empathy has deep evolutionary, biochemical, and neurological manifestations.


Empathy is associated with affective communication, social attachment, and parental care.


Empathy and care related neural circuits include the brainstem, the amygdala, hypothalamus, basal ganglia, insula and orbitofrontal cortex.


By 2 years of age, children 


 begin to display the behaviors of empathy with emotional responses that corresponds with another person’s emotional state.


Most children do not show full empathy until around the age of four.


In the widest sense empathy refers to a reaction of one individual to another’s emotional state. 


Extraversion and Agreeableness as measured by the Warmth-Altruistic personality profile, are associated with empathic accuracy and increased brain activity in the medial prefrontal cortex and temporoparietal junction).


The literature commonly indicates that females tend to have more cognitive empathy than males. 


Self-report data indicate greater empathy in females. 


Some studies suggest that gender differences are the result of motivational differences.


Women tended to be better at recognizing facial effects, expression processing and emotions in general.


Men are better at recognizing specific behavior which includes anger, aggression and threatening cues.


There are small significant sex differences favoring females in  the 


“ Reading of the mind” test, an advanced ability measure of cognitive empathy.


Using fMRI, empathy-related neural responses tended to be significantly lower in males when observing a person experiencing pain.


There are sex differences in empathy from birth, growing larger with age and which remains consistent and stable across lifespan.


Females have higher empathy than males, while children with higher empathy regardless of gender continue to be higher in empathy throughout development.


Females tend to have a stronger link between emotional and cognitive empathy.


Empathy promotes social relationships, helps mediate aggression, allows interrelationships, making  empathy an important emotion among children.


Parenting practices of encouraging the child to imagine the perspectives of others and teaching the child to reflect on his or her own feelings increases empathy.


Paternal warmth  is positively related to empathy within children, especially in boys. 


Maternal warmth is negatively related to empathy within children, especially in girls.


Empathy  can be disrupted due to trauma in the brain such as a stroke. 


Empathy can be impaired if a lesion or stroke occurs on the right side of the brain.


Damage to the frontal lobe, responsible for emotional regulation, can impair a person’s capacity to experience empathy toward another individual.


People with an acquired brain injury show lower levels of empathy.


More than 50% of people who suffer from a traumatic brain injury self-report a deficit in their empathic capacity.


Stunting emotional growth at an early age, impairs ones mind-set as a natural feeling, and makes it difficult to come to terms with their own thoughts and emotions: understanding one’s own emotions is key in being able to identify with another individual’s emotional state.


Empathic anger occurs when  someone else is being hurt by another person or thing: pro-social emotion.


Empathic anger can be divided into two sub-categories: trait empathic anger and state empathic anger.


The higher a person’s perspective taking ability, the less angry they were in response to a provocation. 


Empathic concern does not, significantly predict anger response.


Higher personal distress was associated with increased anger.


Empathy is feeling the perceived pain of another person, and this feeling can be transformed into empathic anger, feelings of injustice, or guilt. 


These emotions can be seen as motives for moral behavior, as well as guiding group decisions about social exchange. 


Individuals who regular experience gratitude engage more frequently in prosocial behaviors. 


Positive emotions like empathy or gratitude experienced by people are more likely to help others than those not experiencing a positive emotional state.


Empathy correlates with an increased positive state and likeliness to aid others. 


Measures of empathy show that mirror neurons are activated during arousal of sympathetic responses and prolonged activation shows increased probability to help others.


Cognitive empathy, rather than emotional empathy,  predicts helping behavior towards victims.


Empathy seems to be partly genetically determined: carriers of the deletion variant of ADRA2B show more activation of the amygdala when viewing emotionally arousing images.


The gene 5-HTTLPR helps to determine sensitivity to negative emotional information and is also attenuated by the deletion variant of ADRA2b.


A gene proximate to LRRN1 gene on chromosome helps control the human ability to read, understand and respond to emotions in others.


People scoring high on empathy tests have especially busy mirror neuron systems in their brains, and are mirroring  or mimicking the emotional response that we would expect to feel in that condition or context, much like sympathy. 


It is not characterized by aversion to another’s emotional response. 


Empathizing with someone requires a distinctly sympathetic reaction where personal distress demands avoidance of distressing matters. 


Empathy is associated with the moral emotion sympathy, or empathetic concern, and consequently also prosocial or altruistic action.


Empathy leads to sympathy, unlike the emotional response that turns into personal distress and causes a turning-away from another’s distress.


In empathy, people feel what we believe are the emotions of another.


Empathy promote prosocial behavior as we accommodate each other to feel similar emotions. 


fMRI studies of empathy indicate that different brain areas are activated during affective–perceptual empathy and cognitive–evaluative empathy.


The  inferior frontal gyrus appears to be responsible for emotional empathy, and the ventromedial prefrontal gyrus seems to mediate cognitive empathy.


Observing another person’s emotional state activates parts of the neuronal network involved in processing that same state in oneself: disgust, touch, or pain.


Affective empathy correlates with increased activity in the insula.


Cognitive empathy is correlated with activity in the mid cingulate cortex and adjacent dorsomedial prefrontal cortex.


The mirroring-behavior in motor neurons during empathy may help duplicate feelings, and may afford access to sympathetic feelings for another and, perhaps, trigger emotions of kindness, forgiveness.


Psychopathy and narcissism are  associated with impairments in affective but not cognitive empathy.


Bipolar disorder and borderline traits have been associated with deficits in cognitive but not affective empathy.


Autism spectrum disorders are associated with deficits in cognitive empathy as well as deficits in both cognitive and affective empathy.


Schizophrenia is associated with deficits in cognitive and affective empathy.


The  balance between affective and cognitive empathy varies among individuals.


Atypical empathic responses are associated with: autism and particular personality disorders such as psychopathy, borderline, narcissistic, and schizoid personality disorders, conduct disorder, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and depersonalization.


Sex offenders often have been raised in an environment where they were shown a lack of empathy and had endured the same type of abuse, and feel less affective empathy for their victims.


Patients with autistic spectrum disorders have an increased inability to recognize and articulate emotional arousal in oneself or others (alexithymia).


Alexithymia is responsible for a lack of empathy. 


The lack of empathy inherent to alexithymic states may reduce quality and satisfaction of relationships. 


Empathy deficiency associated with the autism spectrum may be due to significant comorbidity between alexithymia and autism spectrum conditions.


High-functioning autistic children showed reduced mirror neuron activity in the brain’s inferior frontal gyrus while imitating and observing emotional expressions.


EEG evidence exists of mu suppression in the sensorimotor cortex of autistic individuals. 


A dysfunctional mirror neuron system may underlie social and communication deficits observed in autism, including impaired theory of mind and cognitive empathy.


The mirror neuron system is essential for emotional empathy.


Empathy relies relies on the sensorimotor cortices as well as limbic and para-limbic structures.


The theory of mind relies on structures of the temporal lobe and the pre-frontal cortex.


Empathic deficits of individuals with Asperger syndrome are actually based on impairments in theory of mind, but there is a  lack of clear distinctions between theory of mind and cognitive empathy.


Empathic deficits of individuals with Asperger syndrome are based on impairments in theory of mind.


Patients with the autistic spectrum disorder report lower levels of empathic concern, show less or absent comforting responses toward someone who is suffering, and report equal or higher levels of personal distress compared to controls.


The combination of autism spectrum of reduced empathic concern and increased personal distress may lead to the overall reduction of empathy.


Autistic individuals have impaired understanding of complex social emotions or in considering others’ viewpoints.


Patients with Asperger syndrome have problems understanding others’ perspectives,  but they demonstrate equal empathic concern as, and higher personal distress, than controls.


 Males are generally less empathetic than females.


People with autism spectrum conditions show an exaggerated male profile. 


Some aspects of autistic neuroanatomy have typical male neuroanatomy, which may be influenced by elevated levels of fetal testosterone rather than gender itself.


Psychopathy is a personality disorder partly characterized by antisocial and aggressive behaviors, emotional and interpersonal deficits, shallow emotions and a lack of remorse and empathy.


People who have high levels of psychopathy have sufficient levels of cognitive empathy but lack in their ability to use affective empathy. 


Patients with high scores on psychopathy do not lack in perspective-talking ability but do lack in compassion and the negative incidents that happen to others.


Psychopathy is associated with impairment in affective or emotional empathy including  the ability to feel the suffering and emotions of others.


 Psychopathic patients lack emotional contagion, and those with the condition are therefore not distressed by the suffering of their victims. 


Individuals with autism, are often impairment in both affective and cognitive empathy.


Narcissistic personality disorder demonstrates a lack of empathy and an unwillingness or inability to recognize or identify with the feelings and needs of others.


Schizoid personality disorder include emotional coldness with an inability to be empathetic and sensitive towards others.


Schizophrenia is characterized by impaired affective empathy,


Bipolar individuals have impaired cognitive empathy and increased affective empathy.


People can be adequately moved by their empathies to be altruistic, while others having empathy can lead to polarization, ignite violence and motivate dysfunctional behavior in relationships.


It is a motivating factor for unselfish, prosocial behavior, whereas a lack of empathy is related to antisocial behavior.


People are more able and willing to empathize with those most similar to themselves, and empathy increases with similarities in culture and living conditions. 


Empathy is more likely to occur between individuals whose interaction is more frequent.


People with a lack of empathy:


Frequently finding oneself in prolonged arguments


Forming opinions early and defending them vigorously


Thinking that other people are overly sensitive


Refusing to listen to other points of view


Blaming others for mistakes


Not listening when spoken to


Holding grudges and having difficulty to forgive


Inability to work in a team


Societies that promote individualism have lower ability for empathy.


Empathy is a skill that is gradually developed throughout life, and which improves the more contact we have with the person with whom one empathizes. 


Empathizers take the perspective of another person when they have experienced a similar situation.


Excessive empathy can lead to empathic distress fatigue: fatigue, occupational burnout, guilt, shame, anxiety, and depression.









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