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Abstract

What is empathy? Although seemingly simple, this question has proven surprisingly difficult to answer. For over 200 years, thoughtful people have tried to understand the general phenomenon in which one individual, through observation of another, comes to experience some change in his or her thoughts or feelings. These efforts have typically fallen into one of two broad categories. One approach has been to consider empathy an essentially emotional phenomenon, with the defining feature of the empathic experience consisting of observers either coming to share the target’s emo-tional state (e.g., Eisenberg and Strayer 1987) or to experience some emotional state in response to the target’s (e.g., Batson 1991). The other approach has been to consider empathy an essen-tially cognitive phenomenon, with the defining feature of the experience consisting of observers coming to discern accurately the target’s internal state, but without necessarily experiencing any emotional change themselves (e.g., Wispe 1986).

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Davis, M.H. (2006). Empathy. In: Stets, J.E., Turner, J.H. (eds) Handbook of the Sociology of Emotions. Handbooks of Sociology and Social Research. Springer, Boston, MA. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-0-387-30715-2_20

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