The Function of Sympathy

  • Lauren Wispé
Part of the Perspectives in Social Psychology book series (PSPS)


“Doing evil” has probably always received more attention than “doing good,” so skepticism comes easily with regard to humanity’s capacity for sympathy. Still, there are enough examples of beneficent behavior—past and present—to rebut any arguments against it. As we have already said, sympathy is like headaches in that we have overwhelming prima facie evidence to support their existence. Whatever the fate of the term sympathy may be, it must always refer to something in sentient beings that makes them feel an anguished urge to help when they are exposed to the sights and sounds of suffering in others. What I call sympathy may be paradoxical and difficult to explain, but that is not sufficient reason to doubt its existence.


Sufficient Reason Sexual Stimulus Aggressive Response Reciprocal Altruism Reciprocity Norm 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1991

Authors and Affiliations

  • Lauren Wispé
    • 1
  1. 1.University of OklahomaNormanUSA

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