The functional architecture of human empathy.

Publication Type:

Journal Article


Behav Cogn Neurosci Rev, Volume 3, Issue 2, p.71-100 (2004)


Adaptation, Psychological, Adolescent, Adult, Awareness, Cerebral Cortex, Child, Child, Preschool, Emotions, Empathy, Humans, Infant, Models, Neurological, Models, Psychological, Perception, Self Concept, Social Behavior


<p>Empathy accounts for the naturally occurring subjective experience of similarity between the feelings expressed by self and others without loosing sight of whose feelings belong to whom. Empathy involves not only the affective experience of the other person's actual or inferred emotional state but also some minimal recognition and understanding of another's emotional state. In light of multiple levels of analysis ranging from developmental psychology, social psychology, cognitive neuroscience, and clinical neuropsychology, this article proposes a model of empathy that involves parallel and distributed processing in a number of dissociable computational mechanisms. Shared neural representations, self-awareness, mental flexibility, and emotion regulation constitute the basic macrocomponents of empathy, which are underpinned by specific neural systems. This functional model may be used to make specific predictions about the various empathy deficits that can be encountered in different forms of social and neurological disorders.</p>

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