Empathy is the capacity to recognize emotions that are being experienced by another sentient or fictional being. One may need to have a certain amount of empathy before being able to experience accurate sympathy or compassion. The English word was coined in 1909 by the psychologist Edward B. Titchener in an attempt to translate the German word "Einfühlungsvermögen", a new phenomenon explored at the end of 19th century mainly by philosopher Theodor Lipps. It was later re-translated into the German language as "Empathie", and is still in use there.
The English word is derived from the Greek word ἐμπάθεια (empatheia), "physical affection, passion, partiality" which comes from ἐν (en), "in, at" + πάθος (pathos), "passion" or "suffering". The term was adapted by Hermann Lotze and Robert Vischer to create the German word Einfühlung ("feeling into"), which was translated by Edward B. Titchener into the English term empathy.
Alexithymia from the Ancient Greek words λέξις (lexis) and θυμός (thumos) modified by an alpha-privative—literally "without words for emotions"—is a term to describe a state of deficiency in understanding, processing, or describing emotions in oneself.
Note that in modern Greek the word empathy (εμπάθεια) translates as "hatred" or "spitefulness" (a situation of causing passion, rather than mutual relation to one's passion); ενσυναίσθηση is the correct modern equivalent of empathy.
Empathy has many different definitions. These definitions encompass a broad range, from caring for other people and having a desire to help them, to experiencing emotions that match another person's emotions, to knowing what the other person is thinking or feeling, to blurring the line between self and other.
Since empathy involves understanding the emotional states 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 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.
The human 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. Humans seem to make the same immediate connection between the tone of voice and other vocal expressions and inner feeling.
Empathy is distinct from sympathy, pity, and emotional contagion. Sympathy or empathic concern is the feeling of compassion or concern 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.
Emotional and cognitive empathy 
Empathy can be divided into two major components:
- Emotional empathy, also called affective empathy: the drive to respond with an appropriate emotion to another's mental states. Our ability to empathize emotionally is supposed to be based on emotional contagion: being affected by another's emotional or arousal state.
- Cognitive empathy: the drive to identify another's mental states. The term cognitive empathy and theory of mind are often used synonymously.
Although science has not yet agreed upon a precise definition of these constructs, there is consensus about this distinction. There is a difference in disturbance of affective versus cognitive empathy in different psychiatric disorders. Psychopathy, schizophrenia, depersonalization and narcissism are characterized by impairments in emotional empathy but not in cognitive empathy, whereas autism, bipolar disorder and borderline traits are associated with deficits in cognitive empathy but not in emotional empathy. Also in people without mental disorders, the balance between emotional and cognitive empathy varies. A meta-analysis of recent fMRI studies of empathy confirmed that different brain areas are activated during affective–perceptual empathy and cognitive–evaluative empathy. Also a study with patients with different types of brain damage confirmed the distinction between emotional and cognitive empathy. Specifically, the inferior frontal gyrus appears to be responsible for emotional empathy, and the ventromedial prefrontal gyrus seems to mediate cognitive empathy.
Emotional empathy can be subdivided into:
- Personal distress: the inclination to experience self-centered feelings of discomfort and anxiety in response to another's suffering.
- Empathic concern: the inclination to experience sympathy and compassion towards others in response to their suffering.
There is no consensus regarding the question if personal distress is a basic form of empathy or if it falls outside of empathy. There is a developmental aspect to this subdivision. Infants respond to the distress of others by getting distressed themselves; only when they are 2 years old they start to respond in other-oriented ways, trying to help, comfort and share.
By the age of two years, 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. Sometimes, toddlers will comfort others or show concern for them at as early an age as two. 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.
Despite being able to show some signs of empathy, such as attempting to comfort a crying baby, from as early as 18 months to two years, most children do not show a fully fledged theory of mind until around the age of four. Theory of mind involves the ability to understand that other people may have beliefs that are different from one's own, and is thought to involve the cognitive component of empathy. Children usually become capable of passing "false belief" tasks, considered to be a test for a theory of mind, around the age of four. Individuals with autism often find using a theory of mind very difficult (e.g. Baron-Cohen, Leslie & Frith, 1988; the Sally-Anne test).
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.
Neurological basis 
Research in recent years has focused on possible brain processes underlying the experience of empathy. For instance, functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) has been employed to investigate the functional anatomy of empathy. 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, touch, or pain. The study of the neural underpinnings of empathy has received increased interest following the target paper published by Preston and Frans de Waal, following 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. In their paper, they argued 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. Another recent study provides evidence of separate neural pathways activating reciprocal suppression in different regions of the brain associated with the performance of "social" and "mechanical" tasks. These findings suggest that the cognition associated with reasoning about the "state of another person's mind" and "causal/mechanical properties of inanimate objects" are neurally suppressed from occurring at the same time.
Anger and distress 
Empathic anger is an emotion, a form of empathic distress. Empathic anger is felt in a situation where someone else is being hurt by another person or thing. It is possible to see this form of anger as a pro-social emotion.
Empathic anger has direct effects on both helping and punishing desires. It can be divided to trait and state empathic angers.
The relationship between empathy and anger response towards another person has also been investigated, with two studies basically finding that the higher a person's perspective taking ability, the less angry they were in response to a provocation. Empathic concern did not, however, significantly predict anger response, and higher personal distress was associated with increased anger.
Empathic distress is feeling the perceived pain of another person. This feeling can be transformed into empathic anger, feelings of injustice, or guilt. These emotions can be perceived as pro-social, and some say they can be seen as motives for moral behavior.
Atypical empathic response 
Atypical empathic responses are found in people on the autism spectrum, some personality disorders such as narcissistic personality disorder and borderline personality disorder, psychopathy, schizophrenia, depersonalization, bipolar disorder and conduct disorder.
Autism spectrum 
The interaction between empathy and the autism spectrum is a complex and ongoing field of research. Several different factors are proposed to be at play here.
Research suggests that 85% of ASD individuals have alexithymia, which involves not just the inability to verbally express emotions, but specifically the inability to identify emotional states in self or others. According to recent fMRI studies 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. The lack of empathic attunement inherent to alexithymic states may reduce quality and satisfaction of relationships. Recently, a study has shown that high-functioning adults with autism appear to have a range of responses to music similar to that of neurotypical individuals, including the deliberate use of music for mood management. Clinical treatment of alexithymia could involve using a simple associative learning process between musically induced emotions and their cognitive correlates.
Theory of mind 
Previous studies have suggested that autistic individuals have an impaired theory of mind (ToM). ToM and empathy are often used synonymously, but these capacities represent different abilities that rely on different neuronal circuitry. ToM is the ability to understand mental states such as intentions, goals and beliefs, and relies on structures of the temporal lobe and the pre-frontal cortex. However, empathy is the ability to share the feelings of others and relies on the sensorimotor cortices as well as limbic and para-limbic structures. 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.
Mirror neuron activity 
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. EEG evidence revealed that there was significantly greater mu suppression in the sensorimotor cortex of autistic individuals. Activity in this area was inversely related to symptom severity in the social domain, suggesting that a dysfunctional mirror neuron system may underlie the social deficits observed in autism.
Cognitive versus affective empathy 
Rogers' research, following the distinction between cognitive empathy and affective empathy, suggests that people with Asperger syndrome have less ability to ascertain others' feelings (in terms of theory of mind), but demonstrate equal empathy when they are aware of others' states of mind (in terms of affect).
Regarding the subdivision of emotional empathy into personal distress and empathic concern, individuals with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) self-report lower levels of empathic concern, and they show less or absent comforting responses toward someone who is suffering. However, individuals with ASD also report equal or higher levels of personal distress compared to controls. The combination of reduced empathic concern and increased personal distress may lead to the overall reduction of empathy in ASD. Social psychology research found that when a person is overwhelmed by his or her own feelings when observing a person who needs help, he or she is unlikely to engage in comforting or helping others.
"As regards the failure of empathic 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."
Sex differences and autism 
It has been shown that males are generally less empathetic than females. The "Extreme Male Brain" (EMB) theory proposes that individuals on the autistic spectrum are characterized by impairments in empathy due to sex differences in the brain: specifically, people with autism-spectrum conditions show an exaggerated male profile. A study showed that some aspects of autistic neuroanatomy seem to be extremes of typical male neuroanatomy. One of the main questions that needs to be answered is: if autism is an extreme of the male brain, then is it the result of elevated fetal testosterone (FT), abnormalities in androgen receptors or the genes controlling FT, or sexually dimorphic gene expression unrelated to FT? Future research will need to map all aspects of autistic neuroanatomy that are hypermasculinized as well as consider how to explain those aspects that are not. If the EMB theory does apply to autism, and the male brain is a risk factor for autism, this may explain the lower prevalence in females. However, another study has suggested that Alexithymia, a co-morbid condition prevalent in up to 85% of people on the Autism Spectrum, is linked to the empathy impairment instead of Autism.
Personality disorders 
Borderline personality disorder 
Borderline personality disorder is characterized by extensive behavioral and interpersonal difficulties that arise from emotional and cognitive dysfunction. Dysfunctional social and interpersonal behavior has been shown to play a crucial role in the emotionally intense way people with borderline personality disorder react. While individuals with borderline personality disorder may show their emotions too much, several authors have suggested that they might have a compromised ability to reflect upon mental states (cognitive empathy), as well as an impaired Theory of mind.
People with borderline personality disorder are very good at recognizing emotions in people's faces, suggesting increased empathic capacities. It is, therefore, possible that impaired cognitive empathy (the capacity for understanding another person's experience and perspective) may account for borderline personality disorder individuals' tendency for interpersonal dysfunction, while 'hyper-emotional empathy' (the ability to share the emotional state of another person) may account for the emotional over-reactivity observed in these individuals. One primary study confirmed that patients with borderline personality disorder were significantly impaired in cognitive empathy, yet there was no sign of impairment in affective empathy.
Psychopaths exhibit antisocial and aggressive behavior, as well as some emotional and interpersonal traits in the form of shallow emotions, manipulation of others, and lack of guilt and empathy for victims.
It has been suggested that children with psychopathic traits and adult psychopaths have particular impairments in recognizing distress cues (e.g. facial and vocal expressions of fear and sadness), yet match control groups at recognizing other facial and vocal expressions of emotions like happiness. Individuals with psychopathy don't process others' signals of distress as unpleasant, which results in a lack of empathy which then fails to prevent behavior that creates distress in others.
Individuals with psychopathy have biological differences from controls when they implicitly process facial emotions. The underlying biological surfaces for processing facial expressions of happiness are functionally intact, although less responsive than those of controls. In contrast, individuals with psychopathy display an atypical pattern of response to fearful faces compared with neutral faces, including decreased activation of the fusiform and extrastriate cortical regions. This may partly account for impaired recognition of and reduced autonomic responsiveness to expressions of fear, and impairments of empathy.[full citation needed]
Narcissistic personality disorder 
One diagnostic criterion of narcissistic personality disorder is a lack of empathy and an unwillingness to recognize or identify with the feelings and needs of others.
Schizoid personality disorder 
Characteristics of schizoid personality disorder include emotional coldness, detachment, and impaired affect corresponding with an inability to be empathetic and sensitive towards others.
Conduct disorder 
A study conducted by Jean Decety and colleagues at the University of Chicago demonstrated that subjects with aggressive conduct disorder elicit atypical empathic responses to viewing others in pain. Subjects with conduct disorder were at least as responsive as controls to the pain of others, but unlike controls, subjects with conduct disorder showed strong and specific activation of the amygdala and ventral striatum (areas that enable a general arousing effect of reward), yet impaired activation of the neural regions involved in self-regulation and metacognition (including moral reasoning), in addition to diminished processing between the amygdala and the prefrontal cortex.
Practical issues 
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Proper empathic engagement helps one to understand and anticipate the behavior of another. 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. A person may simulate 'pretend' versions of the beliefs, desires, character traits and context of the other and see what emotional feelings this leads to. Or, a person may simulate the emotional feeling and then look around for a suitable reason for this to fit.
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. Empathy is more likely to occur between individuals whose interaction is more frequent. (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 spouses, among other topics.
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 judgments 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 one empathizes. Accordingly, any knowledge gained of the emotions of the other must be revisable in light of further information.
Ethical issues 
The extent to which a person's emotions are publicly observable, or mutually recognized as such has significant social consequences. Empathic recognition may or may not be welcomed or socially desirable. This is particularly the case where we recognize the emotions that someone has towards us 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. The appropriate role of empathy in our dealings with others is highly dependent on the circumstances. For instance, Tania Singer claims 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. Furthermore an awareness of the limitations of empathic accuracy is prudent in a caregiving situation.
Disciplinary approaches 
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.
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 by actions or by word, regardless of whether it is in their self-interest to do so and even if the costs outweigh potential rewards.
An important target of the method Learning by teaching (LbT) is to train systematically and, in each lesson, teach empathy. Students have to transmit new content to their classmates, so they have to reflect continuously on the mental processes of the other students in the classroom. This way it is possible to develop step-by-step the students' feeling for group reactions and networking.
Evolution of empathy 
An increasing number of studies in animal behavior and neuroscience claim that empathy is not restricted to humans, and is in fact as old as the mammals, or perhaps older. Examples include dolphins saving humans from drowning or from shark attacks, and a multitude of behaviors observed in primates, both in captivity and in the wild, and in particular in bonobos, which are reported as the most empathetic of all the primates. A recent study has demonstrated prosocial behavior elicited by empathy in rodents.
Rodents have been shown to demonstrate empathy for cagemates (but not strangers) in pain. One of the most widely read studies on the evolution of empathy, which discusses a neural perception-action mechanism (PAM), is the one by Stephanie Preston and de Waal (). This review postulates a bottom-up model of empathy that ties together all levels, from state matching to perspective-taking. For University of Chicago neurobiologist Jean Decety, [empathy] is not specific to humans. He argues that there is strong evidence that empathy has deep evolutionary, biochemical, and neurological underpinnings, and that even the most advanced forms of empathy in humans are built on more basic forms and remain connected to core mechanisms associated with affective communication, social attachment, and parental care. Core neural circuits that are involved in empathy and caring include the brainstem, the amygdala, hypothalamus, basal ganglia, insula and orbitofrontal cortex.
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 "telepath" in this context. Occasionally these empaths are also able to project their own emotions, or to affect the emotions of others.
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 by gone ages we are unable to empathise.
It is impossible to forecast the effect of empathy on the future. 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.
In the 2009 book Wired to Care, strategy consultant Dev Patnaik argues that a major flaw in contemporary business practice is a lack of empathy inside large corporations. He states that lacking any sense of empathy, people inside companies struggle to make intuitive decisions and often get fooled into believing they understand their business if they have quantitative research to rely upon. Patnaik claims that the real opportunity for companies doing business in the 21st Century is to create a widely held sense of empathy for customers, pointing to Nike, Harley-Davidson, and IBM as examples of "Open Empathy Organizations". Such institutions, he claims, see new opportunities more quickly than competitors, adapt to change more easily, and create workplaces that offer employees a greater sense of mission in their jobs . In the 2011 book The Empathy Factor, organizational consultant Marie Miyashiro similarly argues the value of bringing empathy to the workplace, and offers Nonviolent Communication as an effective mechanism for achieving this.
In the 2007 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.
In phenomenology, empathy describes the experience of something from the other's viewpoint, without confusion between self and other. This draws on the sense of agency. In the most basic sense, this is the experience of the other's body and, in this sense, it is an experience of "my body over there". In most other respects, however, the experience is modified so that what is experienced is experienced as being the other's experience; in experiencing empathy, what is experienced is not "my" experience, even though I experience it. Empathy is also considered to be the condition of intersubjectivity and, as such, the source of the constitution of objectivity.
Research into the measurement of empathy has sought to answer a number of questions: who should be carrying out the measurement? What should pass for empathy and what should be discounted? What unit of measure (UOM) should be adopted and to what degree should each occurrence precisely match that UOM are also key questions that researchers have sought to investigate.
Researchers have approached the measurement of empathy from a number of perspectives.
Behavioural measures normally involve raters assessing the presence or absence of certain either predetermined or ad-hoc behaviours in the subjects they are monitoring. Both verbal and non-verbal behaviours have been captured on video by experimenters such as Truax (1967b). Other experimenters, including Mehrabian and Epstein (1972), have required subjects to comment upon their own feelings and behaviours, or those of other people involved in the experiment, as indirect ways of signalling their level of empathic functioning to the raters.
Physiological responses tend to be captured by elaborate electronic equipment that has been physically connected to the subject's body. Researchers then draw inferences about that person's empathic reactions from the electronic readings produced (e.g. Levenson and Ruef, 1992; Leslie et al., 2004).
Bodily or "somatic" measures can be looked upon as behavioural measures at a micro level. Their focus is upon measuring empathy through facial and other non-verbally expressed reactions in the empathiser. These changes are presumably underpinned by physiological changes brought about by some form of "emotional contagion" or mirroring (e.g. Levenson and Ruef, 1992*; Leslie et al., 2004*). It should be pointed out that these reactions, whilst appearing to reflect the internal emotional state of the empathiser, could also, if the stimulus incident lasted more than the briefest period, be reflecting the results of emotional reactions that are based upon more pieces of thinking through (cognitions) associated with role-taking ("if I were him I would feel ...").
Paper-based indices involve one or more of a variety of methods of responding. In some experiments, subjects are required to watch video scenarios (either staged or authentic) and to make written responses which are then assessed for their levels of empathy (e.g. Geher, Warner and Brown, 2001); scenarios are sometimes also depicted in printed form (e.g. Mehrabian and Epstein, 1972). Measures also frequently require subjects to self-report upon their own ability or capacity for empathy, using Likert-style numerical responses to a printed questionnaire that may have been designed to tap into the emotional, cognitive-affective or largely cognitive substrates of empathic functioning. Some questionnaires claim to have been able to tap into both cognitive and emotional substrates (e.g. Davis, 1980). More recent paper-based tools include The Empathy Quotient (EQ) created by Baron-Cohen and Wheelwright which comprises a self-report questionnaire consisting of 60 items.
For the very young, picture or puppet-story indices for empathy have been adopted to enable even very young, pre-school subjects to respond without needing to read questions and write answers (e.g. Denham and Couchoud, 1990). Dependent variables (variables that are monitored for any change by the experimenter) for younger subjects have included self reporting on a 7-point smiley face scale and filmed facial reactions (Barnett, 1984).
A certain amount of confusion exists about how to measure empathy. These may be rooted in another problem: deciding what is empathy and what is not. In general, researchers have until now been keen to pin down a singular definition of empathy which would allow them to design a measure to assess its presence in an exchange, in someone's repertoire of behaviours or within them as a latent trait. As a result they have been frequently forced to ignore the richness of the empathic process in favour of capturing surface, explicit self-report or third-party data about whether empathy between two people was present or not. In most cases, instruments have unfortunately only yielded information on whether someone had the potential to demonstrate empathy (Geher et al., 2001)*. Gladstein (1987) summarises the position noting that empathy has been measured from the point of view of the empathiser, the recipient for empathy and the third-party observer. He suggests that since the multiple measures used have produced results that bear little relation to one another, researchers should refrain from making comparisons between scales that are in fact measuring different things. He suggests that researchers should instead stipulate what kind of empathy they are setting out to measure rather than simplistically stating that they are setting out to measure the unitary phenomenon "empathy"; a view more recently endorsed by Duan and Hill (1996).
In the field of medicine, a measurement tool for carers is the Jefferson Scale of Physician Empathy, Health Professional Version (JSPE-HP). At least one study using this tool with health sciences' students has found that levels of empathy are greater amongst females than males, and also are greater amongst older students than younger students.
Gender differences 
The issue of gender differences in empathy is quite controversial. It is often believed that females are more empathic than males. Evidence for gender differences in empathy are important for self-report questionnaires of empathy in which it is obvious what was being indexed (e.g., impact of social desirability and gender stereotypes) but are smaller or nonexistent for other types of indexes that are less self-evident with regard to their purpose. On average female subjects score higher than males on the Empathy Quotient (EQ), while males tend to score higher on the Systemizing Quotient (SQ).
Both males and females with Autistic Spectrum Disorders usually score higher on the SQ (Baron-Cohen, 2003). However, a series of recent studies, using a variety of neurophysiological measures, including MEG, spinal reflex excitability, and electroencephalography have documented the presence of a gender difference in the human mirror neuron system, with female participants exhibiting stronger motor resonance than male participants. In addition, these aforementioned studies found that female participants scored higher on empathy self-report dispositional measures and that these measures positively correlated with the physiological response. However, other studies show that women do not possess greater empathic abilities than men, and perceived gender differences are the result of motivational differences. Using fMRI, neuroscientist Tania Singer showed that empathy-related neural responses are significantly lower in males when observing an "unfair" person experiencing pain.
See also 
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- Empatheia, Henry George Liddell, Robert Scott, A Greek-English Lexicon, at Perseus
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- Bar-On, Reuven; Parker, James DA (2000). The Handbook of Emotional Intelligence: Theory, Development, Assessment, and Application at Home, School, and in the Workplace. San Francisco, California: Jossey-Bass. ISBN 0-7879-4984-1. pp. 40–59
- Taylor (1997), pp. 28–31
- Hodges, S.D., & Klein, K.J. (2001). Regulating the costs of empathy: the price of being human. Journal of Socio-Economics.
- Happiness Genes: Unlock the Positive Potential Hidden in Your DNA, New Page Books (April, 2010) ISBN 978-1-60163-105-3
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- Batson, C.D. (2009). These things called empathy: Eight related but distinct phenomena. In J. Decety and W. Ickes (Eds.), The Social Neuroscience of Empathy (pp. 3–15). Cambridge: MIT Press
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- Simone G. Shamay-Tsoory, Judith Aharon-Peretz and Daniella Perry (2009). "Two systems for empathy: a double dissociation between emotional and cognitive empathy in inferior frontal gyrus versus ventromedial prefrontal lesions". Brain 132 (3): 617–627. doi:10.1093/brain/awn279.
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|Look up empathy in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.|
- Center for Building a Culture of Empathy A portal for empathy related resources; art, articles, definitions, conferences, experts, history, interviews, newsletter, science, videos, etc.
- Mirrored emotion by Jean Decety from the University of Chicago.
- Dictionary of the History of Ideas: Empathy.
- Empathic accuracy by William Ickes (Editor).
- Empathic listening skills How to listen so others will feel heard, or listening first aid (University of California).
- Literature about empathy Articles, books, and book chapters about empathy.
- To hear a definition of empathy given by Marshall Rosenberg (Nonviolent communication), through a parallel between empathy and surf.
- Greater Good magazine article examines human empathy Articles about empathy.
- Study: People Literally Feel Pain of Others - mirror-touch synesthesia, LiveScience, 17 June 2007.
- Articles on Empathy and Philosophy Empathy and Philosophy
- Entry on empathy at Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy