Empathy UP025

In the fifty years following the first mention of empathy in the neuroscience literature, significant gains in understanding the neural basis of empathy have been made. Converging strands of evidence support simulation-based models of empathy, such that, for example, empathy for pain recruits networks involved in the first-hand experience of pain.

Similarly, empathy for other distinct sensory and affective states (e.g. tactile pleasure, fear) leverages the networks involved in the firsthand experience of those states. Such empathic simulations are not unique to humans but can be observed across social species. Both emotional empathy and mentalizing (cognitive empathy) may promote empathic concern or compassion, an outcome variable of particular interest to researchers and practitioners.

Although individuals vary in their baseline empathic capacities and proclivities, empathy and concern can be modulated by interpersonal and contextual variables and with training.