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Empathy: Each is in the right – hopefully, not all in the wrong

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  23 January 2003

Stephanie D. Preston
Affiliation:
University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, 2RCP – Neurology Clinic, Iowa City, IA 52242 stephanie-d-preston@uiowa.edu http://www.medicine.uiowa.edu/prestonresearch
Frans B. M. de Waal
Affiliation:
Living Links, Yerkes Primate Center and Psychology Department, Emory University, Atlanta, GA 30322 dewaal@rmy.emory.edu http://www.emory.edu/LIVING_LINKS/

Abstract

Only a broad theory that looks across levels of analysis can encompass the many perspectives on the phenomenon of empathy. We address the major points of our commentators by emphasizing that the basic perception-action process, while automatic, is subject to control and modulation, and is greatly affected by experience and context because of the role of representations. The model can explain why empathy seems phenomenologically more effortful than reflexive, and why there are different levels of empathy across individuals, ages, and species.

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© 2002 Cambridge University Press

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