Empathy is the capacity to understand or feel what another person is experiencing which can encompass a broad range of (cognitive, emotional, biological) states. Empathy enables individuals to recognise and relate to another person’s feelings and in doing so are more likely to develop satisfactory relationships and are far more likely to help others, than those who do not.
Some research suggests that empathy increases with similarities in culture and living conditions and improves with the increased contact we have with others. It’s considered unselfish behaviour as it tends to generate feelings of altruism which stimulates actions that benefits others, while egotism can stimulate helpful actions but are motivated through personal gain. Strong feelings of altruism can inspire individuals to act against the greater collective or are prepared to violate their own personal code of fairness and justice to benefit the greater need of others. For example, Protesters.
Research suggests that Cognitive Empathy enables people to control their emotional reactions which is important to people working in the caring professions as this helps a practitioner relate to another person’s discomfort without experiencing the distress of their emotions. i.e. People who have experienced sadness can relate to another person’s sadness without feeling sad themselves. Whereas Emotional Empathy can cause an individual to experience the other person’s distress, which can lead to the avoidance of helping. This raises an interesting question about whether ‘Burnout’ amongst professional helpers is the numbing or loss of empathy.
For more information go to: https://bpsmedicine.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/1751-0759-1-22
Low empathy are indicators of Autism, Asperger’s and is associated with a number of psychiatric conditions such as psychopathology, antisocial personality disorders along with others. It’s also suggested (evidence unseen) that societies who promote individualism display a lower ability for empathy. For example, walking past homeless people without feelings empathy.
Early indicators of low empathy are:
Low emotional responses
Seems emotionally flat
Usually lacks facial expressions
Appears not to respond in emotional charged situations
Responses can seem emotionally inappropriate
Difficulty in maintaining friendships
Doesn’t fit well in a team