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Empathy as Research Methodology

  • Eric Leake
Reference work entry

Abstract

While a long-standing concern in psychology and philosophy, empathy is receiving increased attention in the social sciences for its importance in interpersonal relationships and its use in cross-cultural contexts. I begin this chapter with a brief history and overview of the concept of empathy as a means of understanding the perspectives and experiences of others. I then consider the features that distinguish empathy and the modes through which empathy functions. I address empathy’s value across disciplines and extend the application of empathy to the health and social sciences by outlining how practices of empathy might work as a component of research, especially in consideration of different perspectives and social conditions. I apply practices of empathy to research site and participant selection, communication, collaboration, self-reflection, and the recognition of limitations. I advocate the practice of critical empathy, in which researchers acknowledge the biases and shortcomings of empathy while simultaneously looking to establish shared goals and interests. To conclude this chapter, I consider the continued necessity of empathy as a component of research despite empathy’s limitations.

Keywords

Empathy Psychology Philosophy Perspective-taking Biases Cultural awareness 

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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of EnglishTexas State UniversitySan MarcosUSA

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