• Empathy is the ability to emotionally understand what other people
feel, see things from their point of view, and imagine yourself in their
place. Essentially, it is putting yourself in someone else's position and
feeling what they are feeling.
• Empathy means that when you see another person suffering, such as
after they've lost a loved one, you are able to instantly envision
yourself going through that same experience and feel what they are
Type of Empathy
• There are several types of empathy that a person may experience. The three types of empathy are:
• Affective empathy involves the ability to understand another person’s emotions and respond
appropriately. Such emotional understanding may lead to someone feeling concerned for another
person's well-being, or it may lead to feelings of personal distress.
• Somatic empathy involves having a physical reaction in response to what someone else is
experiencing. People sometimes physically experience what another person is feeling. When you
see someone else feeling embarrassed, for example, you might start to blush or have an upset
• Cognitive empathy involves being able to understand another person’s mental state and what they
might be thinking in response to the situation. This is related to what psychologists refer to as the
theory of mind or thinking about what other people are thinking.
Types of Empathy
• Affective Empathy
• Affective empathy, also called emotional empathy, is the ability to respond with an appropriate
emotion to another's mental states. Our ability to empathize emotionally is based on emotional
contagion being affected by another's emotional or arousal state.
• Affective empathy can be subdivided into the following scales:
• Empathic concern: sympathy and compassion for others in response to their suffering.
• Personal distress: feelings of discomfort and anxiety in response to another’s suffering. There is no
consensus regarding whether personal distress is a form of empathy or instead is something distinct
from empathy. There may be a developmental aspect to this subdivision. Infants respond to the
distress of others by getting distressed themselves; only when they are two years old do they start
to respond in other-oriented ways: trying to help, comfort, and share.
Types of Empathy
• Somatic Empathy
• Somatic empathy is described as responding to pain and sorrow in others by physically
experiencing the same pain through proximity to them(1). This is an excellent signal to
bring attention to and sense the plight of others before understanding their conditions,
but it is not sustainable. Somatic sensation can be deceptive as it draws on immediate
internal assumptions to resolve an external state sampled at the level of shared pain,
danger, fear, anger or anxiety.
• For example, if you see someone hurt, you too might feel physical pain. Anecdotally,
identical twins sometimes report that they know when the other has been hurt, which
might be an example of somatic empathy. You can see an echo of somatic empathy, for
example, if someone is hit in the stomach with a ball during a sports game, and one or
two of the spectators may double over as if they too had been hit.
Types of Empathy
• Cognitive empathy
• Cognitive empathy is the ability to understand another's perspective or mental state. The terms
social cognition, perspective-taking, theory of mind, and mentalizing are often used synonymously,
but due to a lack of studies comparing theory of mind with types of empathy, it is unclear whether
these are equivalent. Although measures of cognitive empathy include self-report questionnaires
and behavioral measures, a 2019 meta analysis found only a negligible association between self-
report and behavioral measures, suggesting that people are generally not able to accurately assess
their own cognitive empathy abilities. Cognitive empathy can be subdivided into the following
• Perspective-taking: the tendency to spontaneously adopt others' psychological perspectives.
• Fantasy: the tendency to identify with fictional characters.
• Tactical (or strategic) empathy: the deliberate use of perspective-taking to achieve certain desired
Distinctions between empathy and related
• Compassion and sympathy are terms associated with empathy. A person feels compassion
when they notice others are in need, and this feeling motivates that person to help. Like
empathy, compassion has a wide range of definitions and purported facets (which overlap
with some definitions of empathy).
• Sympathy is a feeling of care and understanding for someone in need. Some include in
sympathy an empathic concern for another person, and the wish to see them better off or
• Empathy is also related to pity and emotional contagion. One feels pity towards others
who might be in trouble or in need of help. This feeling is 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.
Uses of Empathy
• Being able to experience empathy has many beneficial uses.
• Empathy allows you to build social connections with others. By understanding what
people are thinking and feeling, you are able to respond appropriately in social situations.
Research has shown that having social connections is important for both physical and
• Empathizing with others helps you learn to regulate your own emotions. Emotional
regulation is important in that it allows you to manage what you are feeling, even in times
of great stress, without becoming overwhelmed.
• Empathy promotes helping behaviors. Not only are you more likely to engage in helpful
behaviors when you feel empathy for other people, but other people are also more likely
to help you when they experience ‘empathy.
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