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obviously missing here. empathy is illogical (what does hurt another doesn't hurt me) and therefore needs to be second-guessed. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 01:35, 29 December 2016 (UTC)

Cleanup May 2008[edit]

I've started a general cleanup of this page. Mostly restructuring without deleting too much (unless totally subjective). In particular I've moved the empathic fictional characters to its own page. It was starting to overwhelm this page with triviality. The same goes for a link right at the top to software and a comic book character! —Preceding unsigned comment added by Thomascochrane (talkcontribs) 20:55, 9 May 2008 (UTC)

Also note that the lengthy discussion of touch by some obscure philosopher (in a medical journal??) sticks out like a sore thumb on this page. I won't delete it today, but I will some other time if somebody else hasn't already. —Preceding unsigned comment added by Thomascochrane (talkcontribs) 21:21, 9 May 2008 (UTC)

Ok, the page looks quite a bit better now, and I took the liberty of removing the cleanup tag. I'm not very happy with the development section which focuses almost entirely on one man's theory, but I don't really plan to do anything about it now. Finally, could someone archive some of the old discussion please?Thomascochrane (talk) 11:27, 12 May 2008 (UTC)

This entire article is extremely poorly written. It contains many off topic sections and extremely long areas of personal research. It is in heavy need of revision--possibly a complete redo. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 03:06, 25 September 2008 (UTC)

Does the "another" in the opening paragraph really need to italicized? Ronocdh (talk) 00:17, 24 December 2008 (UTC)


can someone explain the difference between the references and bibliography. imo they should be combined into one block. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 05:15, 12 May 2008 (UTC)

items in the bibliography are general works on empathy, and may not necessarily be cited/referenced in the article.Thomascochrane (talk) 09:49, 12 May 2008 (UTC)

Empathy Symbol[edit]

I clicked on the external link: "The Empathy Symbol Just like the peace symbol, there is now an empathy symbol" and the page timed out. Is this link still working? if it does not work a week or so from now we should delete the link. --Lbeaumont 22:13, 18 November 2006 (UTC)

Rework needed: Empathy != the ability to it[edit]

The article mixes up empathy with the ability to it. Empathy is "feeling into" someone, that is "to recognize, perceive and directly experientially feel the emotion of another". The "ability to" that is "the ability to" empathy, not empathy itself. The article needs a rework to make that difference clear. Jhartmann 09:06, 11 September 2006 (UTC)

I completely agree. This article is completely worthless, and will continue to be until someone starts realising that pretty much all the references to "empathy" is actually not "empathy" at all, but "sympathy". — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 16:40, 25 July 2013 (UTC)

Opening sentence: "Empathy is the capacity to recognize emotions that are being experienced by another...", and the article is not "completely worthless." Empathy and sympathy are distinguished in the Empathy#Definition section as well in the lead paragraph itself. Arguably the article may be improved by including discussions of different definitions or usages of the term--from reliable sources. RCraig09 (talk) 17:04, 25 July 2013 (UTC)

I have deleted the statement that empathy is a reflex. It seemed dubious. Michael Hardy 19:42, 22 May 2004 (UTC)

Has any one ever heard of a book...or any material on how to expand and broaden your mind in regards to empathy? (Answer: Yes, read "Flying in the Spirit," great eye-opener and user's manual for empathy.)

Perhaps you should ask at the Wikipedia:Help desk. - Fennec (はさばくのきつね) 14:12, 26 Aug 2004 (UTC)

Have children, young ones preferably. teenage children seem to be a drain on empathy, in my experience. TonyClarke 20:49, 26 Aug 2004 (UTC)

My understanding of empathy comes from Carl Rogers, the American who pioneered non-directive psychotherapy. I learned about empathy from Marshall Rosenberg of the Center for Non-Violent Communications, who was a student of Rogers. Empathy is a core concept for both Rosenberg & Rogers and I feel any discussion of empathy has to take account of their work. It goes far beyond psychotherapy. For Rogers, empathy is a continuing desire to understand the feelings and communications of the other person. This simple statement is a very different approach than much of the current discussion about empathy. This approach to empathy requires that a person be quiet enough (or large enough) inside themselves and also open & interested in the other person, genuinely interested & compassionately interested. Empathy is not about feeling the other's feelings, it is about making the effort to understand. Empathy is very human and allows the other to feel they are visible and understood. When this works, you are "there" with the other person, and it can result in a radical shift in the other person, a visible release of tension in their body. After several workshops with Marshall Rosenberg, I now see the world differently. I feel that the vast majority of people that I come across in my daily life... let me be more honest, I feel that all of us in our lives are often starved for empathy. Andrew-in-ottawa 20:05, 10 January 2007 (UTC)


This statement is made in the "Empathy" article: "Empathy has to be learned at a young age." Why must it be learned at a young age? What proof is there that empathy cannot be learned later in life? What are the sources which claim this? I believe them to be wrong. Thank you. Raina 21:20, 25 Sep 2004 (UTC)

Since no one has answered yet, I would suggest that those authorities who make this claim need to study it further. One other thought: is it possible that those who learn empathy later in life learn merely an artificial empathy? Perhaps they learn this "articifial empathy" in order to feel more socially acceptable? I am very interested in this, should someone have some answers. Raina 05:08, 4 Oct 2004 (UTC)

Referring to the book listed above (Flying in the Spirit") Natural Empathy is a gift given to everyone. Skilled empaths have developed these skills to a higher degree. If you are reading this article you are an empath on some level. Work on your can change your life.

It is my opinion that we are born with the capacity to have empathy, just as we are born with the capacity to love and do many other things. I am of the opinion that these can be obliterated, if not completely then almost completely, by the treatment the child receives at a young age. I also believe that at a certain level of maturity, depending upon the person and that person's environment, s/he will recognize the deficit and begin to work on regaining what was lost.
I have been through these stages with regard to both empathy and love and learned to have what I call "social empathy": a level of empathy that makes one socially capable. More recently, I have learned how shallow that kind of empathy really is, and since, I have learned to have true empathy. At this point, while I know it is true empathy, I do not know if it is a mature empathy or an infantile or immature empathy. However, I am deeply grateful for gaining any empathy at all, just as I am that I eventually learned to love. Raina 04:15, 5 Nov 2004 (UTC)

To answer your question, the spindle and mirror cells are the physiological basis for empathy in humans, primates, and some whales. Humans are not born with the cells functioning, or at possibly at all. They start growing in a baby at four months, with nurturing for the baby, soon to be a child, being critical to their growth, or possibly their development, or linking-up, within the mind. The pleasures of the parent child relationship develop empathy.

Effectively, empathy is not learned but is developed. Those who cannot feel their way to a good life through empathy, have to learn how to be altruistic.

Empathy is social empathy (I use it later in this discussion a purely social context). The mirror cells allow a level of communication that seems nearly telepathic; everything is said through eye contact. The mirror cells also allow us to absorb another's emotions through their subtle expressions, or "body English." Spindle cells tie all this together by creating high speed pathways between significantly different parts of the brain allowing for imagination, or what scientists would call modeling. Einstein very specifically mentioned this process as part of his developing his theories.

Empathy is not just happy communication. If someone is being mean to you, they are being toxic; through the mirror cells, they dump their toxicity into you-- they ruin your day. Issues for you become complicated as your spindle cells further enable your empathy so that you embrace the toxicity-- to understand it. Friends, of course, will sense this and will try to steer you away from these thoughts by distracting you with happier thoughts.

I personally feel that people who are well nurtured, and therefore more empathic, handle the stresses of life better. But because their empathy allows them to futher embrace life, they can be more greatly affected by the most extreme stress: trauma. --John van v 16:59, 16 January 2007 (UTC)

Major point for consideration[edit]

Surely empathy is more than just awareness of the thoughts or feelings of others. Empathy means entering into the mind or being of the other, to experience what the other experiences. The OED defines empathy as "The power of projecting one's personality into (and so fully comprehending) the object of contemplation". Identification, not simple awareness, is the key here. So the second sentence of the current definition gets it right, not the first sentence. This also means that the sentence about the con-artist ("A con-artist may possess and rely on empathy — awareness of others' thoughts and feelings — but fail to experience sympathy, which might prevent him from victimizing others.") is incorrect and ought to be deleted. Experiencing empathy for others would prevent someone from conning them. Again: empathy is more than simple awareness of what others are thinking or feeling.

Value Judgements?[edit]

Is there not a bit of value judgement going on here, clouding the definition of empathy?

Imagine an executioner who is not very good at his job, because he has a lot of empathy for the condemned, whom he has to despatch. I think it would be unfair to say that he has not got genuine empathy, just because he gets on with his job. Would you say he only gets true empathy if he stops his work and resigns? Surely his empathy led him to resign, therefore you cannot say that empathy prevents us from causing others harm. Perhaps all we can say is that people with empathy are unlikely to harm others, or that we most approve of the kind of empathy which prevents a person at all costs from harming others.

A similar situation is where a person is forced to torture others, as I think occurred in the Japanese invasion of China early last century. He or she may do the torture reluctantly, on pain of having even greater harm enacted upon others, and the person may do it with great reluctance and sensitivity for the suffering. The person cannot avoid harming others, whether he/she complies or not. The person is acting under situational pressures, but has not therefore lost his empathy.

TonyClarke 16:56, 4 Jan 2005 (UTC)

Can Psychopaths not have empathy ? As I have often read the methods of such people are based on their understanding of the victim/s feelings and emotions to get closer to their end. To be capable of empathy is surely not necessarily a benevolent mode. I am sure I have read this during an interesting browse. To the same end to be capable of empathy may not mean that it is a constant ?

Empathy, it seems, is an ability to understand or percieve the others' feelings, not necesserily caring about them. To be an effective bully for example, one needs to have empathy, for only if you know what would embarass and hurt a person a lot can you arrange it for them. Maxim K (talk) 18:40, 11 January 2008 (UTC)
We often assume that someone who has empathy would not harm anyone, but I do not believe that assumption is warranted. A person may harm someone out of lack of empathy, or a sadist's may harm people from a desire to do harm, knowing exactly what the victim will experience.--RLent (talk) 21:12, 10 January 2008 (UTC)

Psychopaths are psychopathic -- that is something you do not want to be around. You can stick lit matches in their arms, and it makes them relax (from what I have read). Total loss there; they are just sick.

The other question is more relevant, as you see this in every thing you do. To survive in this competitive world, you have to limit your empathy. For instance, if you start feeling sorry for the 10,000's of animals that have been cruelly butchered for your meals, you may startle your family. But if you stop eating meat, you will likely live ten years longer-- you were not meant to eat that much meat (not you personally, but the average you). Being empathic in this case means being selfish.

There is a world religion that protects people who are selfish in this empathic way; it is called Buddhism. True Buddhists don't kill anything; they have empathy for everything-- there is no limit to their empathy.

Actually, that's not entirely true. As part of protecting empathy, they practice self-defense, or martial arts. Buddhism absorbed martial arts as part of their pacifying Asia. In Japan the Shogunate warriors became the Buddhist Samurai, but never gave up their weapons. While empathy is often described as "walking in another's shoes" it can be described at times as "putting the shoe on the other foot." Domineering Christians are often surprised by this; they expect Buddhists and other empathic pacifists to always turn the other cheek.

Empathy is not the same as Telepathy[edit]

Personally, I believe there is a difference between feelings and thoughts. I am an empath (based on feeling) and not a telepath (based on thought). There are people that possess both abilities, but that does not mean they are the same ability. So I believe that any reference to an empath having an accurate trait of reading peoples thoughts is wrong.

Oh, my! Agreed! I never would have thought of the two being confused, but I once had a relationship in which the person may have been confused about this! I never realized this before reading your post above! She was quite miffed when I had to explain that I did not automatically know what she was thinking, so I could not respond to her thoughts. She thought that if we were true friends, I would be able to do this! At the time, I had to just let it go, but it really bothered me then, that I was so deficit that I had no ability to do this. I have blamed myself since that the friendship disintegrated, but I think you have something there. Thank you. Raina

does anyone know who coined the term "imaginative empathy" or the term "appropriative empathy"?[edit]

I have been using both but want to give credit where it is due, if it is. Thanks!

Sara Koopman

From the paper I just handed in: Azar Nafisi, an Iranian writer living in the West, who writes in opposition to the controlled and war-like conditions in her native country, makes a most important contribution as she describes for us how these combined forces within our minds can extend our empathy beyond our senses to transcend distance and social differences. She describes how the brain's most elegant constructs, empathic thought and imagination, naturally work together to create humanity's most noble reflections, and how necessary these reflections are.

No amount of political correctness can make us empathize with a child left orphaned” .. “Only curiosity about the fate of others, the ability to put ourselves in their shoes, and the will to enter their world through the magic of imagination, creates this shock of recognition. Without this empathy there can be no genuine dialogue, and we as individuals and nations will remain isolated and alien, segregated and fragmented.” (Azar Nafisi)

image added[edit]

I have added my own artwork to this article. I've want to make it smaller, but could not, so I just made it a thumbnail. --Whicky1978 01:54, May 23, 2005 (UTC)

Joseph, I'm not sure why you added that picture. It seems a bit primary school doesn't it? I'm not going to delete it or anything, but even the colours seem wrong. Your picture is suggestive of sympathy more than empathy. Empathy is about getting a sense of the SAME emotion as the other person.

Empathy is the intellection identification with another person, which includes emotions. How can the colors be wrong? Did you clip the thumbnail and read the caption? Was I not clear? In the picture, the colors represent emotions, on figure has some of the same color as the other person, hence symbolizing emphathic emotion. As for the primary school, if you think you can do better art work, or find better art work, then by all means do so. --Whicky1978 03:28, May 25, 2005 (UTC)

The content and aesthetic quality of the added picture is not up to the standard found in other Wikipedia articles. I agree with the other users who also made this claim. It's pretty obvious.

I looked at the picture and the containing website; yes it does seem a little young. A "peace sign" for empathy is a tough one; I have been struggling for one. If viewed in black and white, the one suggested is a good start. It shows cross communication between people through eye contact; and it shows the communication paths "wiring" into the rest of the mind. --John van v 19:02, 16 January 2007 (UTC)

Grammar editing[edit]

I have edited out many of the "we", "it" and "there", where appropriate to comply better with standards of grammer, as cited by APA, and my English and Psychology professors. According to wikipedia reccomendations, articles should avoid the use of vague expressions such as "some experts believe" or "it is widely accepted" and cite an actual source.--Whicky1978 04:52, May 25, 2005 (UTC)

Dear Joseph,

Every single one of your edits is idiotic. Your spelling is also atrocious. I will return another day to amend them.



Tom, I do not want to start editing war. All my changes were made inorder to be helpful. Also, most of my edits were in accordance with wikipedia policy. Whicky1978 05:26, Jun 3, 2005 (UTC)

There's nothing wrong with writing "Empathy is ...." and following it with "It is often characterized as ...". Changing the initial "it" to "the process" is infelicitous, in my view. And spelling grammar correctly would help the credibility of such edits. Michael Hardy 23:15, 29 May 2005 (UTC)
Using it as the subject of a sentence is formal writing is inappropriate. It is like using "there" in the beginning of a sentence. Spelling and grammar are not he same, and yes, I admit that I make many typos. Whicky1978 05:26, Jun 3, 2005 (UTC)
Using it as the subject of a sentence is formal writing is inappropriate.

I think the above is utter nonsense. Michael Hardy 01:59, 5 Jun 2005 (UTC

I don't want to enter into this argument about impersonal subjects or fuzzy antecedents to pronouns, but I would like to point out the final paragraph of the article:

The reader will not be astonished at the conclusive issue about empathy and history. Only events and their products meet or not empathy. It is impossible to forecast the effect of empathy on the future. We can pay attention to the means of language of telling events. We above checked a contemporary subject may not take part in the past. 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. [19] The way of making the study of empathy functional is still long.

This paragraph makes little or no sense, not least because it is written in a very non-idiomatic style."Events" have "products" that "meet or not" empathy? Since an Italian source was cited, could it be that the writer is Italian with limited English skills? Unfortunately, my Italian is limited enough so that if I try to retrotranslate this into Italian, it still doesn't make any sense.Janko

Empathy and development[edit]

I have read that empahty is something that we learn, not rather than born with.

This is a reasonable assertion, because it is a cognitive process, and cognitive process become more complex as children grow. I will see what I can find, and add it to the article.--Whicky1978 04:52, May 25, 2005 (UTC)

If this were the case, then no one could be born with Autism. Autism is at its heart an innate failure to develop empathy. As a person with Asperger’s Syndrome, a form of High Functioning Autism, I can attest to the fact that empathy is an in born, reflexive and instinctual ability and that I developed empathy late, at 30 years old. Since I remember being without empathy and now that I have developed some empathy, I am in unique position to tell you what it is.
I did not know that other people experienced emotions until a few years ago, and this was not due to a lack or intelligence or opportunity to learn. But a predilection to use logic and systems in an inappropriate attempt to understand others combined with an inability to leave my own perspective and see another persons point of view. I was thus completely oblivious to the fact that people felt, but this is understandable, as it is obvious that a mathematical equations cannot feel. I was using the same part of my mind to understand people as I use to understand maths. No, it is sympathy that can be learnt. Diamond Dave13/07/2005 21:52

I have added a new section for the development of empathy.whicky1978 15:38, July 16, 2005 (UTC)

The comment from Rose Rosetree in this section seemed wildly inappropriate to the subject. "Empath" is imsufficiently defined for making a nominally objective statement like "5% of a population are Empaths", and worse, under the most common definitions of Empath, the statement reeks of false dichotomy. I've removed it. -- 07:25, 24 April 2006 (UTC)

I have requested mediation[edit]

I have requested mediation to prevent an edit war, and resolve our disputes --Whicky1978 05:40, Jun 3, 2005 (UTC)


I just find your edits pointless rather than particularly damaging. Having a clear written style is not about slavishly sticking to pendantic grammatical rules. In particular, avoiding the use of 'I', 'we' or 'our' at all costs is an unjustified scientific (rather than academic) convention that tries to preserve the myth of total objectivity. Obviously the point of these articles is not just to spout personal opinion, Yet it is standard academic practise to use 'we' when guiding a conceptual inquiry.

Ultimately clarity and straightforwardness is my guiding principle.

  • Could whoever is the main opposer of Joseph's edits indicate in the WP:RFM page wether they'd accept mediation? I'm sure it's possible to write a version with grammar you can both agree to. Mgm|(talk) 17:26, Jun 5, 2005 (UTC)

My objections are not based on "total objectivity". The use of "we" is inappropriate when the subject is not inclusive of the reader--Whicky1978 23:11, Jun 6, 2005 (UTC)

What's up with the picture? Whicky's rendition of empathy? Huh?

Mediation, empathy and tolerance[edit]

LOL, if we need mediation on the empathy page, someone is seriously lacking in the ability to see the other's POV here! :-) Here's a quote on empathy from a peace organization:

Increasingly, educational researchers are identifying affective perspective-taking or empathy as one of the key characteristics of a successful learner (e.g., Jones, 1990). They recognize that an individual's success involves the abilities to view the world through the eyes of others, communicate effectively with others, and value sharing experiences with persons of other backgrounds. Those children with higher empathic understanding have greater grade point averages (e.g., Bonner and Aspy, 1984) and higher-order reading comprehension skills (Kohn, 1991). Developmental psychologists have found that the problems some children experience in social relationships are due in large part to their inabilities to understand how others think and feel. [1]

Sounds like the American Indians had something there, with that "walk a mile in his shoes" thing. Uncle Ed 20:31, 21 October 2005 (UTC)

Yeah, meditation and mediation go together great. I know for a fact that Natives everywhere have an empathic connection with nature; they are forced to hunt the animals they love and worship, but that's the hunter/gatherer's life. Our controlling restrictive Western civilization responded by ripping the souls right out of the natives where ever they could find them. Best documented is the work of the Jesuits in the Detroit area; the natives there, the Ojibwa (sometimes wrongly called Chippewa) formed an underground medicine society called the Midewiwin. The Midewiwin documented the horror orally and on birchbark. Today they work w/ the government to restore the Tribal connection with nature, ending centuries of inherited low self-esteem.

Watching interviews Aboriginal TV in Canada is great; the Natives have fairly advanced therapies. Sadder are the stories of the residential schools designed to destroy the Native spirit; what Luther Standing Bear coins as "psychecide." --John van v 00:39, 16 January 2007 (UTC) note: Luther Standing Bear was remarkable but he may not have coined the term. Paula Gunn Allen might have in relation to Standing Bear's writing; I am still looking.

Evolutionary Origins of Empathy?[edit]

I would love to see references to some research/documents/discussions on how or why empathy evolved in us? Can someone find any? What benefits did it bestow us? What role did empathy play in formulation the rules of society in early man? Did it lead to a set of rules of what acceptable behaviour was in a large group of humans? Which ultimately lead to a kind of "law of the land"...and in the absence of any abstract notions of local govenrment, nation..these rules morphed into an acceptable way of living in groups shall not kill, steal your neghbours goods or mate..Did these rules morph over time into religion, as a first iteration of a government?..and over time these religious rules had superstition and notions of deities to attached to them?


Sure there endless references out there starting w/ Aristotle or Darwin. De Wall uses the analogy of our empathy being like a Russian doll, with the smallest doll being the "natural affection" (Darwin's term for empathy) of our most distant animal ancestors.

There is a well-studied monkey group near Puerto Rico on Cayo Santiago that has a synergistic social order. Every monkey shares food and information about food. Monkeys that don't share get kicked around by the other monkeys. This shows empathy in the way you ask, but.. the odd thing is that mirror and spindle cells are not found in monkey brains, well so far. These cells may be more widespread than presently believed, or there may be other neurological constructs that have the same effect as the mirror and spindle cells. --John van v 00:47, 16 January 2007 (UTC)


this article is all over the place, will someone please wrap it into neater more oragnized sections? right now it's like, 'oh, we were just talking about the definition, oh, now we're on autism, oh, now we're on emapthy towards animals(?).' i'd do it right now, but im studying for blasted psych finals. gah! JoeSmack Talk 16:52, 11 June 2006 (UTC)

Also, maybe do something to the empathy definition section to make the definitions stand out from their citations.

1.1.07 I'm doing a little cleaning up on this page. I rewrote it ages ago, and it's strange how some of my original contributions remain but in a corrupted form that spoils their original meaning. tom

My honest opinion is that this field of study is growing so fast, that cleaning may be a waste of time. I think getting all the relevant data onto the page is the most important thing. The chaff should be obvious to anyone who is serious. There is, for instance, talk about telepathy. This is of course nuts (my opinion, oops); but there have been times I thought I was reading people's minds. That happens when the empathic mirror cells are at work, and most of us have them. They drive us crazy at times. --John van v 01:22, 16 January 2007 (UTC)


In some fantasy books and games (Phantasy Star 4, and Dragonrealms for instance, Empathy also refers to a character's ability to transfer the wounds of others onto their own body. Kira of PS4, for instance, tries to cure a disease by taking it into her own body and using a seperate power to purge it once there. Are there any other examples of this that we can find? Two games isn't enough to merit inclusion, but if it's a growing fictional idea then it might be worth mentioning in the article.


There are alot of comic characters who have powers termed as empathy. The only one I can think of is Dani Moonstar but I'm sure I've seen quite a few characters with this power listed. 19:43, 1 January 2007 (UTC)

Empathy in Customer Service[edit]

--DavidND 10:08, 25 July 2006 (UTC)All too often 'organisations' forget that Empathetic behaviour involves the physical too.

An example. You take your car in for a service around Christmas time. The garage owner thinks he's being 'Empathetic' (demonstrating he thinks and cares about you) when he leaves a bottle of Wine on your seat as a gift. You however are tea total and the gift actually alienates you...

If you are trying to encourage Empathetic behaviour then the key to success is to treat each person as a unique individual with personal needs.

  • It DOES NOT take more time for staff to do this.
  • It DOES take listening/hearing skills.
  • It MAY WELL be that you deliver the same response to this person as you did the person before BUT as long as each person FEELS that they are being listened to AS AN INDIVIDUAL it will not feel that they are being treated like everyone else.
  • Your staff morale will rocket.
  • Your staff turnover will plummet
  • Your customers WILL become more LOYAL if you do this.
  • Your company will be more PROFITABLE if you do this.

Enjoy --DavidND 10:08, 25 July 2006 (UTC)


In contrast, psychopaths are seemingly able to demonstrate the appearance of sensing the emotions of others with such a theory of mind, often demonstrating care and friendship in a convincing manner, [..]

How many instances of "apparently" are required to satisfy the need to argue away a psychopath's ability to understand people's emotions? If we divide clearly between empathy (the ability to understand people's motives) and sympathy (holding other people's well-being in high regard), as the article does, then we have to acknowledge that psychpaths can only manipulate others because they have an average or above-average theory of mind. It is the need to put ourselves above our enemies, that leads to diagnosing a disability rather than an unwillingness.

Maybe the right formulation is to state that psychology is uncertain about whether the process of empathy in psychopaths is the same as that in the general population, or if normally subconscious abilities are consciously emulated - as is the case in people on the autistic spectrum.

- 22:58, 5 September 2006 (UTC)


Since when does a word like empathy derive from "false friend", "spite" etc? Wiktionary seems to have a much more logical derivation, I'm no expert so I'll leave it to someone else but seriously!!...sbandrews 07:40, 27 September 2006 (UTC)

Spindle Cells[edit]

I searched on mirror cells, and sure enough, they are there (that actually surprised me). Spindle cells are missing; they are connecting cells and with mirror cells give us the physiological basis for empathy, as humanity knows it. Empathy happens on many different levels, and the most important is the social level, or responsibility.

The unempathic have to be taught empathy; whether scruples, morals, laws, or altruism it is synthetic empathy.

To support the comment above, my understanding of aspergers is that is occurs from a lack of mirror cells, so the idea that aspergers suffers are over-empathic cannot be true.

Mirror cells work mostly through eye contact; but blind people in my experience, have been super empathic; so mirror cells work through all the senses. Memes are also an important part of empathy; they are containers for emotional and analytical information which pass from one being to another; music is the best example as it contains so many different components and reaches us on so many levels. The inventor of the meme, Dawkins, is not a great source. Memes are probably transported with the help of mirror cells.

Empathy comes from nature just as Aristotle and Darwin said it does; Darwin called empathy natural affection. The social layer of empathy above the two human layers (the sensual and the thinking, or high road and low road to Goleman) is the constructivist community of knowledge. This comes from nature, as does everything else. Just as with knowledge, you cannot cannot create community from thin air. Much like science you have to follow the natural path of development; in other words, you have to continue the natural evolution of the community of nature. This is because nature is where our psychology comes from; the flying spaghetti monster did not create our psychology (sorry, folks). The destruction of the natural community of knowledge is not evolution; it is destruction. Bulldozers are not a product of nature. The destruction of the natural community of knowledge, often called the environment, is a result of a lack of empathy at the social level. This lack of social empathy will destroy us in the end unless we, the socially empathic, defend ourselves against the socially unempathic-- preferably in the courts.

Here is a paper I have written on it; the wildlife section has gotten high marks from wildlife researchers: --John van v 00:16, 16 January 2007 (UTC)

Actually, in humans, there's only evidence of mirror neuron systems, not mirror neurons. I also think it might be a bit of an over-generalization to say that mirror neurons are the sole source of the multifaceted phenomenon of empathy. (talk) 19:53, 1 December 2010 (UTC)


This section has a clean-up block quote, but I think the topic is valid. The text just needs to not be from Star Trek ;) I found a really informative link that looks at empathy in writing, and especially in Arabic:

Also, while I am at it, I am plugging my own empathy page:

Here are comments I have received so far, I would appreciate yours if you have the time resource available.

"Your web page is impressive." --Dr Edwin Kahn (Rogerian therapist) I think you did a great job on the web page and it's easy to follow and understand. And your approach is very reasonable and sane. --Trisha W It looks wonderful!......You're definitely on the same wave length of thinking as myself. --Marilyn Yenolevage Well done; I like it! I haven't had time to read your entire page (like a NOVEL, it's so well written!) --Dave WOW! Took at glance at your webpage. It looks great. --Tammy You did a fantastic job, you really did --Diane Wow! I'm very impressed John, That is a great paper. --Pala --John van v 17:17, 22 January 2007 (UTC)--

Empathy vs. Sympathy; Contrasting empathy[edit]

I think this section needs more explaination, people often confuse empathy and sympathy. Jake b 22:44, 15 February 2007 (UTC)

Autism, Aspergers, and Cho[edit]

As autism and apsergers are defined (by the sane) as a lack of empathic neurons in humans, I think it needs to be noted that Cho, the Virg. Tech killer, had autism.

In an interview through a translator, Cho's great aunt very specifically said that Cho had no emotional connection with his mother as at child. She also specifically said he had autism.

He was obviously psychotic, but all psychotic people don't kill or even harm. But because Cho was unable to communicate emotionally, as he had no empathic facilities, he was unable to find out from others that his thoughts were psychotic.

I think the only valid way to honor the deaths of the innocent at that college, is to understand that empathy, meaning emotional communication, is the only path to peace.

The only way to honor their loss is to assure that in the future the empathic neurons in every human are promoted, and that lies surrounding empathy ranging from mental telepathy to the idiotic concept of a "selfish gene" are dispelled permanently.

Those who cannot feel the effects of their actions on others as a result of not having, or having lost, empathic facilities need to be constantly watched by family and society.

The constant fracturing of society by capital practices such as globalization (formerly colonialism) need to be halted so as to allow the evolutionary legacy of empathy, or natural affection as Darwin called it, to continue unmolested.

Likewise, those who cannot feel the effects of their actions on others, also as a result of the deficiency of empathic facilities, cannot have control over others, especially those with feelings. By removing the anti-empathic from control, as it turns out, all control will become unnecessary, as control is a condition found only in the absence of empathy.

--John van v 17:36, 21 April 2007 (UTC)

OR - more correctly, he was a misdiagnosed antisocial personality disorder type. I have come across tonnes of people on internet forums being misdiagnosed, it took them several psychiatrists before they "hit home" and autism is a popular "one size fits all" diagnosis right now. Psychiatrists are not doing their job and they are not reading the damn diagnostic criterias. If someone want 1) control and 2) have an inflated ego, beyond the normal one and does not feel empaty - we have left the autism spectrum long ago and wandered into the valley of psychopats. Btw, i'm a diagnosed aspie who actuallt KNOW the diagnostic criterias for autism and antisocial disorders. Maby you should pick up a book on psychiatric disorders and READ IT or have someone smack you in the head with it. I have a tonne of empathy, i get pissed of whenever i see injustice or someone being treated badly. However, because of society that pretty much hates people who have autism, because people LIKE YOU, my sympathy for others are very limited. I am pretty much shut down against the world around me and only care for my parents, my friends and my workmates. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 22:11, 14 September 2013 (UTC)
As the article itself suggests, not all people on the autism spectrum exhibit a 'low cognitive empathy, high affective empathy' balance. Further discussion here: Talk:Empathy#Cognitive_vs._Affective_Empathy_and_Autistic_Individuals. --Xagg (talk) 03:23, 24 May 2013 (UTC)

Only those who know nothing about psychology define autism as a lack of empathetic neurons. People who actually know what they are talking about would know that 1. Autism is defined by behavior, not neurology. It's defined as repetitive interests and social impairment. 2. There is no such thing as "empathetic neurons". The proper term is mirror neurons, and the research linking them to empathy is still controversial. 3. While *some* (but not all) research shows less mirror neuron activity in autism, mirror neurons having a role in autism is just a theory, and not the main one. Finally, this has nothing to do with the article and all you are doing is writing autism hate speech.— Preceding unsigned comment added by Ganondox (talkcontribs)

Autism and tantrums[edit]

Many, if not all, autistic people have had temper tantrums. This contradicts the alexithymia diagnosis as anger is an emotion. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 18:10, 18 October 2008 (UTC)

Actually, it does not. Alexithymia is not the lack of emotion, but the difficulty in identifying and describing it.

Telepathy reference[edit]

Can we remove that? Telepathy still hasn't been verified scientifically... I would explain the telephathic empathy more in the lines of cognitive biases and non verbal communication...

Telepathy / Empathy distiction should stay[edit]

Telepathy phenomena has been recorded many times throughout history. I believe the reference should stay and this setion expanded as I have natural empathic abilities yet I do not condider myself to have any form of ESP or telepathy. I can feel what others feel without any visual clues or signs from the subject, especially the stronger emotions and most especially grief.

Proven or unproven scientifically the refernce should stay sign it deifferentiates and diverts for further reading and study. —Preceding unsigned comment added by MysticNorth (talkcontribs) 00:11, 30 September 2009 (UTC)

Edit in Article[edit]

EDIT: The above actually sounds like instructions to develope a not-already-had ability of empathy, even though it is claiming to be how it is done in general. The person who wrote it is probably not really empathetic themselves. Empathetic people do not intentionally copy the person they are "reading," and simply do not use those methods. It is more that they can simply see indicators, or signs, of the person's emotions, and then they make guesses in why, which may or may not be educated. Empaths already know emotions well enough to not need to try to mimic an expression to figure out what it means. To be empathetic is to be observant, emotionally intelligent, and interested in the other person's emotions. The latter of which is why empaths are not so with everyone they come in contact with, mostly just people with which they are familiar. And, it is also why they sometimes share the other person's feeling, because they care about that person and are emotionally influenced by them. Either you are, or you are not empathetic, end of discussion, and the writer of that "methods" nonsense clearly was not.

Someone at placed this in the article. Perfectly valid criticism, I'm sure, but it belongs here, not on the main page. Care to rewrite the offending section? DionysosProteus 04:10, 27 August 2007 (UTC)

New Age Drivel?[edit]

This article seems permeated with New Agey mumbo jumbo. Anyone agree or want to take on editing some of that. Or anyone have objetions if I take a stab at it? - teh jawn 17:58, 3 November 2007 (UTC)

I have to agree with you there. I notice near the end the page talks about the vibrations that objects give blah blah blah, and that it is the basis of empathy. I think somebody needs to edit this out, or cite the research this was taken from. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 05:23, 6 November 2007 (UTC)

Exact Meaning[edit]

I've read the article and several onlint definitions of the word, but they seem to be vague on one thing (or maybe I just don't get), but I was wondering if empathy implies *feeling* the others' feelings or *being aware of what they are*? As far as I can tell there are three ways in which one can relate to the others' feelings, state of mind, etc: 1 - you see a person who is sad, but you don't realize that he or she is sad, 2 - you see a person who is sad, and you are able to detect their sadness, but you may or may not care, 3 - you see a person who is sad, and feel sad as well as a result of detecting their mood. So is #2 still empathy or not? Maxim K 07:34, 9 November 2007 (UTC)

Recent Articles[edit]

There was an article recently in TIME magazine that discusses new research relating to empathy. I think its worth including as a reference or external source. —Preceding unsigned comment added by Wikidget (talkcontribs) 21:13, 6 December 2007 (UTC)

Methods of empathy[edit]

It only lists imaginative ways to feel empathy.

What about having actually felt the pain before? That's definitely a method, don't you think? One can empathize with another if they have felt the same pain.

--Heero Kirashami (talk) 22:49, 12 March 2008 (UTC)

In Simple/Concise Terms (as I understand)[edit]


I understand Sympathy to be one's ability to RELATE with how another is feeling. In contrast to Empathy, not feel the exact same way, but be able to realize the magnitude of the emotions as well as the catagory of emotions. E.G: If my friend lost a sibling and I never had; for me to Sympathize with my friend, I would reference an instance from my past whereby I believe the magnitude and properties of the pain are in parallel with the suffering of my friend.


Empathy I believe is ones's ability to identify with my friend via the same instance having occurred to me. Therefore, for me to Empathize with my friend, I would have as well lost a sibling at some time. This, in addition to Sympathy, theoretically, is a "Super-Class" of sympathy in that all aspects/properties of sympathy exist (magnitude and the same realm of feelings) and encompassing the additional aspect of having experienced the exact emotions myself.


Thus, in conclusion, Empathy doesn't just parallel another's emotions, it is having an eqaulity with another's feelings; having expeienced identical emotions and thus having a more thorough realization of another's emotional state.

  Author:    Glenn T. Kitchen
  Company:   GTK Computer Consulting Co.  
  Tag Line:  "pi, it makes the world go 'round"
  Wiki-Sig:  --Spirit 314 (talk) 23:34, 19 April 2008 (UTC)

Version 0.7[edit]

We'd like to include this, but there seem to be too many cleanup issues for now. Please renominate when you think the Original Research issues, uncited content and off-topic aspects have been addressed. Thanks, Walkerma (talk) 08:10, 10 November 2008 (UTC)

In history section[edit]

This half of the section appears to have been translated poorly from the original Italian. It verey much needs re-writing, preferably by someone who has read the original reference:

"The reader will not be astonished at the conclusive issue about empathy and history. Only events and their products meet or not empathy. It is impossible to forecast the effect of empathy on the future. We can pay attention to the means of language of telling events. We above checked a contemporary subject may not take part in the past. 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.[58] The way of making the study of empathy functional is still long."

Invertzoo (talk) 01:29, 17 January 2009 (UTC)

In history?[edit]

Why is this particular section relevant at all? Jenkins is a historian. He is not an authority on empathy and the first sentence indicates that the paragraph is a topic of "debate," i.e., pure speculation of a "liberal discourse." A history section sounds great, but how is this one in any way relevant? —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 02:06, 12 February 2009 (UTC)

Merger proposal[edit]

Hi all, I am proposing a merger of Mind-blindness to the autism section here, as it appears to be a concept limited to one or possibly a few researchers in autism disorders, and is essentially a name for a lack of empathy associated with that condition. Hence, I think it is of greater value to discuss the term within the realm (and article) of empathy.


  1. . Casliber (talk · contribs) 12:32, 3 April 2009 (UTC)



Mind-blindness is not quite the same as lack of empathy, as it also applies to oneself. One would never ordinarily say that person X has a lack of empathy for himself, but it's not uncommon to say that a person X is blind to his own mind. This doesn't mean the topics can't be merged, but if they are merged, care should be taken to not claim that the two features are antagonistic. Eubulides (talk) 07:41, 4 April 2009 (UTC)

In which case (when used of inability to recognise one's own emotions) --> alexithymia? Actually there should be some mention or link to alexithymia in the empathy article anyway. Casliber (talk · contribs) 10:28, 4 April 2009 (UTC)
But it's also a different concept from alexithymia; how about merging it to Theory of mind#autism? SandyGeorgia (Talk) 13:40, 4 April 2009 (UTC)
Yes, Theory of mind would be a better location to merge Mind-blindness to. Thanks for suggesting that. Eubulides (talk) 17:35, 4 April 2009 (UTC)

What's the adjective?[edit]

I'm not he best English speaker. I've recently watched an interview on "the view" where Michelle Obama called her husband "emphatetic" which most people understood as "and pathetic" :) Now. what's the correct form? —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 03:12, 18 August 2009 (UTC)

I might be wrong, but I've usually seen "empathetic" to refer to someone who is exhibiting empathy, and "empathic" as a science fiction/fantasy term meaning someone who has empathy as a supernatural or ESP power. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 05:47, 30 January 2010 (UTC)

"Empathic" was used by Carl Rogers, a leader in bringing the concept of empathy into clinical psycho-therapeutic practice. This may be an issue of whether the adjective can describe a person vs. a thing, but "empathic" is definitely not a sci-fi word. (talk) 19:55, 1 December 2010 (UTC)


Why is psychic empathy listed in the "fiction" section and nowhere else? —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 05:45, 5 April 2011 (UTC)

Removed line from introduction[edit]

I removed the following from the introduction:

"Empathy is the key cornerstone in genuine human relationships. Empathy is conscious. It means one with empathy feels compassion, while those without do not take into account other people's emotions."

I'll be honest that I can't point to a certain page of the style guide and say "Ah ha! That's it!", but that's due to my lack of knowlege regarding the text in question. Although I hate to use the argument, I'm certain that it breaks something in there - at the very least, it doubles back on text already stated in the paragraph above it, lacks citations, and is just... I don't know, doesn't fit. James.DenholmTalk to me... 03:55, 29 August 2011 (UTC)

Science News resource[edit]

Rat-to-rat empathy by Laura Sanders Web edition: Friday, July 22nd, 2011 ...

There’s little love lost between humans and rats, but rats show at least some signs of empathy toward their furry brethren. Female rodents who had experienced a foot shock in the past were more likely to freeze in fear when they witnessed a fellow female rodent get zapped, scientists in Portugal and the Netherlands report online July 13 in PLoS ONE. Rats who had never been shocked didn’t vicariously freeze when they saw a cagemate receive a shock. Though the researchers don’t know the emotional state of the rat, this contagious behavior may offer a way to study some aspects of empathy, the researchers suggest.

See Emotion in animals (including humans). (talk) 04:50, 26 November 2011 (UTC)

Foreign Policy potential resource, regarding The Better Angels of Our Nature[edit],36#thinker48 ... <removing quote, as copyright violation> (talk) 17:42, 6 December 2011 (UTC)

No plausible connection, in the excessive quote. Quote removed. — Arthur Rubin (talk) 18:10, 6 December 2011 (UTC)
Here is a shortened and excerpted quotation ...

... argues that the world is a significantly more peaceful place than it was in centuries past. Pinker makes the case that the worst examples of human cruelty -- torture, war, suicide -- have declined dramatically in the modern age. He contends that humankind has gradually tamed its worst instincts as traits like empathy and equality have proved more useful than violence and revenge, an insight as relevant to geopolitical strategists as criminologists the world over. And Pinker suggests the trend toward a more peaceful planet is accelerating, beginning with the "Long Peace" that followed World War II and gaining momentum with the "New Peace" that followed the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union. (talk) 17:42, 6 December 2011 (UTC)

Some wikilinks from excerpt deleted by Special:Contributions/Arthur Rubin; war in Afghanistan, famine in Somalia, bloody crackdown in Syria, cognitive researcher, (talk) 23:23, 6 December 2011 (UTC)
Still seems excessive, and not directly related to this article, although it suggests that Pinker's book might be related to this article. A book review would be better than this source, however, and it still seems tangential. I see a plausible connection, now, but not an actual one. — Arthur Rubin (talk) 00:13, 7 December 2011 (UTC)

Sex Differences and Autism[edit]

In the section on sex differences and autism it seems that one blurs the distinction between affective empathy and cognitive empathy (which in fact has nothing to do with the former, as it is perfectly possible to have one without the other). It is unfortunate that these two are mixed up as it makes it seem like autists and people with Asperger have no affective empathy (if they had none, they would have been classified as psychopaths, not autists/aspergers). --Oddeivind (talk) 19:09, 8 June 2012 (UTC)

As the article itself suggests, not all people on the autism spectrum exhibit a 'low cognitive empathy, high affective empathy' balance. Further discussion here: Talk:Empathy#Cognitive_vs._Affective_Empathy_and_Autistic_Individuals. --Xagg (talk) 03:23, 24 May 2013 (UTC)


According to the Greek article on wikipedia, alexithymia derives from the verb αλέξω (to repel, repulse) and thymos, rather than lexis, which translates as word. If there's no objection I should like to amend that. --Chrysalifourfour (talk) 13:56, 11 July 2012 (UTC)

40. Autism and Empathy[edit]

This is clearly an emotionally laden topic for many who have edited/and or created the sub-page heading. Early edits of the page, before the autism and empathy subsection was added, make very clear that autistic problems do not cause psychopathy and people with autism are not psychopaths, but empathy is so emotion laden that any suggestion of problems with empathy for some is the same as suggesting psychopathy. It should have been left as it was before the section on Autism and empathy was added. It already made clear that autistic people aren't psychopaths and autism doesn't lead to psychopathy - that was enough. You don't have to try to 'prove' autistic people aren't psychopaths to convince people. Autism and empathy is a very controversial topic including in academic circles, so it would make sense to remove the section of autism and empathy - it's just too controversial to include on such an important topic (empathy). Personally, I feel the subsection on Autism and Empathy should either be removed, or put on a new page, separate from the empathy page. It needs input from an impartial and dispassionate expert. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talkcontribs) 23:37, 14 October 2012‎

As the article itself suggests, not all people on the autism spectrum exhibit a 'low cognitive empathy, high affective empathy' balance. Further discussion here: Talk:Empathy#Cognitive_vs._Affective_Empathy_and_Autistic_Individuals. --Xagg (talk) 03:23, 24 May 2013 (UTC)

Sourcing for new "Developing empathy" section[edit]

I removed the section labeled "Developing empathy" because it lacked legitimate sources. Citing a random pdf document with unknown provenance and "BYU magazine" (not an article, just the magazine) is entirely unacceptable. This is an encyclopedia, not a grade school project, so please be sure to use sources that are high quality. If you would like to work on a draft, please do so in user space or here in Talk. If you would like help, please ask! ElKevbo (talk) 16:25, 6 November 2012 (UTC)

Cognitive vs. Affective Empathy and Autistic Individuals.[edit]

This subject/headline referenced paragraph asserts that Autistic and AS people feel the stress of people more strongly. The cited reference, a study from 2007, was specific to 21 individuals diagnosed with Asperger's syndrome with an average IQ of close to 121, 42 years of age, and 16 years of education. The study is an extremely limited study and supports findings only for this narrow demographic of individuals diagnosed with Asperger's in the study. It is not a strong enough study to support the claim that Autistic and AS people feel the stress of people more strongly. Therefore, I am going to remove the word Autistic from the paragraph and leave the word Asperger's as that is the only demographic of individuals on the spectrum represented in the study cited, in support of the assertion.

Furthermore, it is recognized in other research that individuals with higher measured levels of assessed intelligence on the spectrum have less difficulty with what has been described as Theory of Mind, or what has been described by some as cognitive empathy. Not only this, but it is recognized that over time this ability can increase, with adaptation to the social environment. In addition, studies have not determined that individuals on average with Asperger's syndrome have higher median IQ's than the general population. The study cited was skewed towards college students and/or college graduates, in both the control group and the group of individuals diagnosed with Asperger's in middle age, with standard measures of IQ that is not representative of the general population or the median IQ of adult individuals diagnosed with Asperger's studied in much larger clinical studies, per example of the reference provided below, that showed that only 14% of 70 individuals studied with Asperger's syndrome scored higher than an IQ of 114 on standards measures of intelligence.

A recent study referenced below identifies that individuals studied with Autistic Disorder have substantially lower assessed measures of social theory of mind, than individuals diagnosed with Asperger's syndrome.

The cited study in the Subject/Headline paragraph only indicated that the individuals diagnosed with Asperger's syndrome were assessed with equivalent levels of affective empathetic concern when an adjustment was made for their assessed deficits in cognitive empathy.Yellowboy70 (talk) 23:47, 21 December 2012 (UTC)

Good points. I would also like to add that – as the article itself suggests, particularly in the 'atypical empathic response' section – not all autistic individuals necessarily demonstrate the very particular balance of high affective empathy and low cognitive empathy, so it isn't correct to imply that they all do (as had been the case in one section of the article). Some indeed have the balance reversed, whilst others are deficient in both cognitive and affective empathy. Low affective empathy, I suspect, would partly explain the behaviors of allegedly autistic mass murderers like Cho, Lanza, and others. --Xagg (talk) 03:18, 24 May 2013 (UTC)

Bad quality page[edit]

Without a doubt this page on empathy is one of the worst I've seen on Wikipedia and I'm a regular user. Some people who edit the page clearly have an agenda and are trying to give a certain presentation of information because they mistakenly believe it will change prejudice. The Empathy page should be a lot shorter. Wikpedia shouldn't be a medium for people with agendas and strong biases to meddle with its content. Wikipedia is supposed to be a encyclopaedia. I propose that the Empathy page be locked and some of it's biased material be deleted. — Preceding unsigned comment added by Esther cerulean blue (talkcontribs) 06:49, 23 December 2012 (UTC) Not only is that a problem but some people who have edited the empathy page are relating empathy to too many different things. This madness must stop. — Preceding unsigned comment added by Esther cerulean blue (talkcontribs) 06:56, 23 December 2012 (UTC)

Hi User:Esther cerulean blue! Could you be more specific which part(s) you would like to replace with what? Lova Falk talk 09:28, 23 December 2012 (UTC)
Yeah, I agree with Love Falk. Can you give us some specific examples? Tbeasley0504 (talk) 03:34, 30 December 2012 (UTC)

Female Theorists and definition[edit]

I wonder why there is only one female listed under the "Theorists and definition" section. Obviously we cannot list every author here, but it seems woman theorists, who might have a unique perspective are underrepresented currently on this page. --Sometimesthinking (talk) 19:40, 16 February 2013 (UTC)

Good point! Actually there are two women, Edith Stein and Nancy Eisenberg. Personally I don't like this section at all, but I have no idea either in how to improve it. Lova Falk talk 19:45, 16 February 2013 (UTC)
Hi all. There is already a section dealing with gender differences in the experience of empathy. If anyone thinks that something is missing then we are all free to make the relevant addition.
With regard to the "theorists and definition section", I actually think that it might be better to just delete the list of theorists. Every man (sic) and his dog has a theory about empathy and the list could go on forever. Further, i think the list format makes it tempting for editors to add their own favourite empathy theorist, with little thought about adding to the encyclopaedic quality of the article. What do there's think? Cheers Andrew (talk) 04:25, 17 February 2013 (UTC)
Please go ahead and erase. That is, if nobody else comes around and has a good argument against erasing... Lova Falk talk 09:02, 17 February 2013 (UTC)
Everyone seems quite on the topic so I am going to go ahead with the removal. Cheers Andrew (talk) 02:03, 25 February 2013 (UTC)

Educational Assignment[edit]

Njbetz (talk) 15:06, 23 April 2013 (UTC)


I am part of the UNLV Wikipedia Initiative Team and this is my first time editing a page. I just did some minor punctuation and grammar edits. I also changed the structure of a few sentences in order to promote clarity and highlight the important terms.Villasa4 (talk) 00:39, 20 June 2013 (UTC)

Established terminology: "affective" vs. "emotional" empathy[edit]

I think that changing all occurrences of "affective empathy" to "emotional empathy" is counterproductive for two reasons: 1. There is a clear distinction in the affective sciences between emotion and affect – the terms are not synonymous. 2. The cited literature uses the term "affective empathy", again for good reasons. This is even more problematic where references are given – changing a passage that refs an article on "affective empathy" to "emotional empathy" breaks the ref. Generally, it is not left to the preference of an encyclopedia author which term to use. (talk) 07:47, 9 August 2013 (UTC)

Thank you for your relevant comment! Please be bold and change from emotional to affective. Kind regards! Lova Falk talk 08:56, 10 August 2013 (UTC)
"Emotion" and "Affect" are not synonymous, but from what I can tell it appears that "emotional empathy" and "affective empathy" are simply alternative terms for the same division of empathy, used in comparison with cognitive empathy. Nonetheless, I agree that it's probably best to use the terminology as it is used in the sources. The literature currently referenced in this article appear to use the term "affective" empathy in the vast majority of cases, so what I have done is change all mentions of "emotional" empathy to "affective" empathy, and then reverse that change for any sources that use the term "emotional" empathy (e.g. source 20 here). There were two sources (sources 56 and 70 here) that I have not found the full text for and have not fully verified whether they used only the term "emotional" or "affective" empathy if either, so I changed/tagged the content based on what I could find.--Humorideas (talk) 17:08, 10 August 2013 (UTC)

Great, thanks! Kind regards, (talk) 17:10, 10 August 2013 (UTC)

I've also found a source implying that the terms "emotional" and "affective" empathy refer to the same type of empathy (source 15 here).--Humorideas (talk) 18:18, 10 August 2013 (UTC)


Since this German word is used early in the article, and not everyone knows German, I suggets this German term should be explained. May I make an attempt? fühlen means to feel, Vermögen is an ability. A paraphrase of this compound word would be: the ability to put oneself into another person´s feelings or being able to understand another person´s feelings as if they were one´s own. More suggestions welcome.Ontologix (talk) 03:38, 9 January 2014 (UTC)


This wiki article seems to stand in conflict with standard dictionary definitions of the word in omitting what is perhaps the most significant element of it:

the ability to share someone else's feelings  ~ Merriam-Webster Online
vicarious experiencing of the feelings, thoughts, or attitudes of another. 

I would suggest that the most common understanding of the word is summed up well in the definition on Psychology Today:

Empathy is the experience of understanding another person's condition from their 
perspective. You place yourself in their shoes and feel what they are feeling.

However this meaning is completely ignored in the introduction. Instead, the definition put forward, of merely "recognising" the feelings of another, leads to face recognition software being seen as capable of empathy. Even while some might focus on what I see as a trivial aspect of the definition, significant others, as illustrated above, define it in a quite different way. I think the weight of its use in English literature would also weigh heavily on the side of the omitted definition.

As it currently stands therefore this article conflicts with wikipedia POV policy and should be edited accordingly.

LookingGlass (talk) 15:26, 4 March 2014 (UTC)

I agree. This article is offering conflicting definitions without properly distinguishing between uses, and that just makes the topic confusing. The inclusion of ants freeing nest mates in the "Empathy in Animals" section is a prime example of confusion about empathy as a technical notion versus a folk notion, although arguably it doesn't even qualify for the folk notion. Worse, altruism (again, technical or folk version?) gets thrown into the mix, which is an entirely separate concept(s). While I think the altruism article is a bit of a mess, it's step up from this one because it separates out the scientific viewpoints. That's what we need here. In short, we need to distinguish between explanatory theories that serve as contexts for the technical notions, each of those technical notions being called "empathy."

My suggestion is to outline each use within an explanatory theory, which that being the heading. Thus, it does not make sense to have a measurement section that seemingly includes all uses of the term. Instead, each explanatory theory--I'm using theory very roughly here--should define what it means by empathy, and how it measures empathy, and the beginning of the article should be a tourist map to these theories. (I will try to put some suggestions for the reorganization on this talk page when I get a chance.) -- (talk) 20:21, 9 March 2014 (UTC)

First usage in English of 'empathy'[edit]

According to the OED, EB Titchener, who used the term 'empathy' in 1909 (as a rendering of Einfühlung), was not the first to coin the term in English, viz [1]:

orig. Psychol. and Philos.
1. In the psychological theory of K. Lasswitz: a physical property of the nervous system analogous to electrical capacitance, believed to be correlated with feeling. Obs. rare.
1895 E. L. HINMAN tr. K. Lasswitz in Philos. Rev. 4 673 For the capacity factor of psychophysical energy the name ‘empathy’ is proposed. Empathy is then a physical quantity, a physiological brain-function, and is defined as the relation of the whole energy at any change of the central organ to the intensity.

1) "empathy, n." OED Online. Oxford University Press, December 2014. Web. 30 January 2015. (talk) 20:35, 30 January 2015 (UTC)


The first paragraph suggests animal empathy may be due to a "ulterior" motive of survival. This shows a lack of understanding of genetics and evolution. Empathy arises because it is useful for survival, but the organism is not conscious of this fact. Humans do not act empathetically thinking "I am doing this because my genes benefit". They do it because the genes program the behaviour that is beneficial to the genes. In the same way sexual lust is programmed for reproduction, but people still do it using condoms without thinking about babies. The point is empathy in animals always has a ulterior motive in a sense, because it exists to enhance survival and reproduction of the genes that program the trait, but the organism isn't aware, human, or otherwise.

Cutting down on length and redundancies?[edit]

Hi, I am new to editing Wikipedia. I initially planned to make some changes to this article, but found myself a little overwhelmed due to the long length and some redundant information in the article. I feel that as a neophyte it is perhaps not my place to cut information, split up the article into sub-articles, or make too many substantial changes to an article that has had a long history and a number of different collaborators, particularly because I am not an expert in the field. Any more experienced editors that feel confident enough to address some of these issues? Thanks! Akasunic (talk) 11:23, 20 April 2015 (UTC)

Hi Akasunic and first, welcome to Wikipedia. Second, I agree that it certainly is a long article and I similarly think that there is much redundancy. I would welcome any efforts to trim it back to be a leaner and meaner beast. Feel free to have a go yourself. After all, one of the wiki-principles is to be bold. The worst case scenario is that your changes will be reverted.
That being said, I would add one word of advice. If you do intend to make large scale changes to an article, consider making them in small increments, spaced out over a period of time. The advantage of this is that if there is some concern about one aspect of the changes then not everything need be reverted and then discussed. In other words, it helps reduce the need to throw the baby out with the bathwater. Other than that, happy editing. Cheers Andrew (talk) 13:20, 23 April 2015 (UTC)
Good luck with that. Over the past two and a half months I have been conducting an excessive meta study of wikipedia, and of the articles that are not stubs, I have to say that this article is as good a candidate as any for the worst article on wikipedia. The amount of POV-pushing, obscure or fringe sources, missing sources, confusion over key terminology, the amount of tautology, the missing key dimension of ingroups/outgroups and its evolutionary roots in kin and (although some disagree) group selection (ever present in human history from tribal warfare to inquisition, slavery, colonialism, nationalist fervour, orphans and child factory workers in Victorian England, WWII, civil rights movements, Apartheid, Israel/Palestine conflict, islamist terror, the war on terror, and (controversial) animal rights etc.). Empathy is relative. Strongest towards family members, then close friends, the tribes we identify with and belong to (nation, religion, political group). The nazis were not psychopaths (the prevalence of psychopathy is about 1%) but an extreme example of how humans (who identify with the oppressor) are capable of shutting down empathy (both affective and cognitive) towards dehumanized outgroups.
To those who want to improve this article I suggest starting with a clear outline. What is relevant and what is less relevant? There is currently no coherent structure. Save what is of encyclopedic quality in the current article (it's not much) and rework the rest, using reliable mainstream sources. (talk) 09:10, 20 July 2015 (UTC)
I see what you mean. Will attempt to move things in this direction Tim bates (talk) 00:06, 10 February 2016 (UTC)
I am a retired researcher (PhD) in psychology, with an emphasis on empathy. I am very interested in restructuring this almost unusable article. Who can okay that I do that?DrZasm (talk) 00:52, 24 April 2016 (UTC)
Hi DrZasm - welcome to Wikipedia. Anyone can edit the article - articles are not owned by anyone on here so you do not need permission. I see from your contributions list that you have done very little editing here. This is not a problem - we were all new once. I suggest you make smallish changes to start with so that these can be edited or reverted without you losing other content changes. If you are going to make controversial changes, discuss these at this Talk page before making them so that consensus can be achieved. By the way, I have just created the article Theory of mind in animals and I would love to have it explained to me, in simple terms, what is the difference between "empathy" and "theory of mind". Happy editing. DrChrissy (talk) 16:36, 24 April 2016 (UTC)

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