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(Cuff 2014)*

An overview of the different definitions of empathy.
Forty-three distinct definitions/conceptual summaries were identified.

The inconsistent definition of empathy has had a negative impact on both research and practice. The aim of this article is to review and critically appraise a range of definitions of empathy and, through considered analysis, to develop a new conceptualisation. From the examination of 43 discrete definitions, 8 themes relating to the nature of empathy emerged:
  1.  “distinguishing empathy from other concepts”; 
  2. “cognitive or affective?”;
  3.  “congruent or incongruent?”
  4. “subject to other stimuli?”; 
  5. “self/other distinction or merging?”;
  6.  “trait or state influences?”; 
  7. “has a behavioural outcome?”; 
  8. and “automatic or controlled?” 

The relevance and validity of each theme is assessed and a new conceptualisation of empathy is offered. The benefits of employing a more consistent and complete definition of empathy are discussed.

"Despite this extensive history, empathy is not a well defined notion. Instead, there are perhaps as many
definitions as there are authors in the field (Decety & Jackson, 2004; de Vignemont & Singer, 2006)"

PPT]Defining Empathy, Benjamin Cuff, Coventry University

(Albeiro 2009)
Albeiro et al. (2009, p.393) “The tendency to vicariously experience other individuals’ emotional emotional response that is focused moreon another person’s situation or emotion than on one’s one...[which] can be either identical to or congruent with that of the other person involved.”

(Barker 2008)
Barker (2008, p.141) “The act of perceiving, understanding, experiencing, and responding to the emotional state and ideas of another person.”

(Barnett + 2013
Barnett & Mann (2013, p.230) “A cognitive and emotional understanding of another’s experience, resulting in an emotional response that is congruent with a view that others are worthy of compassion and respect and have intrinsic worth.”

(Baron-Cohen + 2004
Baron-Cohen & Wheelwright (2004, p.168) “The drive or ability to attribute mental states to another person/animal, and entails an appropriate affective response in the observer to the other person’s mental state.”

(Batson + 2005
Batson et al. (2005, p.486) “An other oriented emotional response elicited by and congruent with the perceived welfare of someone else.”

(Batson + 1987)
atson, Fultz, & Schoenrade (1987, p.20)“The other-focused, congruent emotion produced by witnessing another person's suffering involves such feelings as sympathy, compassion, softheartedness, and tenderness.”

(Clark 2010)
Clark (2010, p.95) “A way... to grasp the feelings and meanings of the client.”

(Cohen + 1996)
Cohen & Strayer (1996, p.988) “The ability to understand and share in another’s emotional state or context.’’

(Colman 2009) 
Colman (2009, p.248) “The capacity to understand and enter into another person’s feelings and emotions or to experience something from theother person’s point of view.”

(Coplan 2011)
Coplan (2011, p.40) “A complex imaginative process through which an observer simulates another person’s situated psychological states while maintaining clear self–other differentiation.”

(Davis 1983
Davis (1983, p.114) “A reaction to the observed experiences of another.”

(Davis 1996)
Davis (1996, p.12) “A set of constructs having to do with the responses of one individual to the experiences of another. These constructs specifically include the processes taking place within the observer and the affective and non-affective outcomes which result from those processes.”

(Decety + 2006)
Decety & Lamm (2006, p.1146) “A sense of similarity between the feelings one experiences and those expressed by others.”

(Decety + 2006)
Decety & Lamm (2006, p.1146) “The ability to experience and understand what others feel without confusion between oneself and others.”

(Decety + 2010
Decety & Michalska (2010, p.886) “The ability to appreciate the emotions of others with a minimal distinction between self and other.”

(Decety + 2007)
Decety & Moriguchi (2007, p.22) “The capacity to share and understand emotional states of others in reference to oneself.”

(Dymond 1949)
Dymond (1949, p.127) “The imaginative transposing of oneself into the thinking, feeling and acting of another and so structuring the world as he does.”

(Eisenberg +2006)
Eisenberg, Fabes, & Spinrad (2006, p.647)“An affective response that stems from the comprehension of another’s emotional state or condition, which is identical or very similar to the other’s emotion, or what would be expected to feel.”

(Feshbach 1975)
Feshbach (1975, p.26) “A match between the affective responses of a perceiver and that of a stimulus person…. [definitions] must take into account both cognitive and affective factors.”

(Geer + 2000)
Geer, Estupinan, & Manguno-Mire(2000, p.101) “The ability to perceive another person’s point-of-view, experience the emotions of another and behave compassionately.”

(Goldman +1993)
Goldman (1993, p.351) “A sort of “mimicking” of one person’s affective state by that of another.”

(Hein + 2008)
Hein & Singer (2008, p.154) “An affective state, caused by sharing of the emotions or sensory states of another person.”

(Hoffman 2000)
Hoffman (2000, p.4) “An affective response more appropriate to another’s situation than one’s own.”

(Hogan 1969)
Hogan (1969, p.308) “The act of constructing for oneself another's mental state.”

 (Ickes 1997)
Ickes (1997, p.2) “A complex form of psychological inference in which observation, memory, knowledge, and reasoning are combined to yield insights into the thoughts and feelings of others.”

 (Johnson +1983)
Johnson, Cheek, & Smither (1983,p.1299).“The tendency to apprehend another person’s condition or state of mind.”

(Lazarus 1994)
Lazarus (1994, p.287) “Sharing another’s feelings by placing oneself psychologically in that person’s circumstance.”

(Oliveira-Silva + 2011)
Oliveira-Silva & Gonçalves (2011,p.201)“The capacities to resonate with another person’s emotions, understand his/her thoughts and feelings, separate our own thoughts and emotions from those of the observed and responding with the appropriate prosocial and helpful behaviour.”

(Pavey + 2012)
 Pavey, Greitemeyer, & Sparks(2012, p.681)“The experience of sympathetic emotions and concern for another person in distress.”

(Pease 1995)
Pease (1995, p.202) “The action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts and experience of another of either the past or present without having the feelings, thoughts and experience fully communicated in an objectively explicit manner.”

(Pelligra 2011)
Pelligra (2011, p.170) “The ability to anticipate and share others’ emotional states.”

(Preston 2007)
Preston (2007, p.428) “A shared emotional experience occurring when one person (the subject) comes to feel a similar emotion to another (the object) as a result of perceiving the other’s state.”

(Preston +  2002)
Preston & de Waal (2002, p.4) “Subject’s state results from the attended perception of the object’s state’’

(Rogers 1975)
Rogers (1975, p.2) “To perceive the internal frame of reference of another with accuracy and with the emotional components and meanings which pertain thereto as if one were the person, but without ever losing the 'as if' condition.”

(Singer + 2009)
Singer & Lamm (2009, p.82) “An affective response to the directly perceived, imagined, or inferred feeling state of another being.”

(Singer + 2009)
Singer & Steinbeis (2009, p.43) “A distinction between oneself and others and an awareness that one is vicariously feeling with someone but that this is not one’s own emotion.”

(Smith 1759)
Smith (1759; cited by Marshall et al., 1995, p.100) “An ability to understand another person’s perspective plus a visceral or emotional reaction.”

(Stocks + 2011)
Stocks et al. (2011, p.3) “A category of emotional responses that are felt on behalf of others.”

(Stotland + 1978)
 Stotland et al. (1978, p.12) “An observer reacting emotionally because he perceives that another is experiencing or about to experience an emotion.”

(Titchener 1909) 
 Titchener (1909; Cited by Duan & Hill, 1996, p.261) “A process of humanizing objects, of reading or feeling ourselves into them.”

(Van der Weele 2011)
 Van der Weele (2011, p.586) “A basically passive process of information gathering.”

(Wispé 1986)
 Wispé (1986, p.318) “The attempt by one self-aware self to comprehend unjudgmentally the positive and negative experiences of another self.”

(Zahavi 2008)
 Zahavi (2008, p.517) “A basic, irreducible, form of intentionality that is directed towards the experiences of others.”

Others Sort

Hume, David. 1739-40. Sympathy is a propensity…to receive by communication [another’s] inclinations and sentiments, however different from, or contrary to our own. [Hume uses the word “sympathy” in a way similar to “empathy.”]

Aquinas, Thomas. 1265-74. Mercy is the heartfelt sympathy for another’s distress, impelling us to succour him if we can. [Aquinas uses the word “sympathy” in a way similar to “empathy.”]

Smith, A. 1759. Sympathy is a process that allows the minds of men to become mirrors to one another. [Smith uses the word “sympathy” in a way similar to “empathy.”]

Schopenhauer, Arthur. 1840. In feeling compassion for another, I suffer directly with him, I feel his woe just as I ordinarily feel only my own; and, likewise, I directly desire his weal in the same way I otherwise desire my own…At every moment we remain clearly conscious that he is the sufferer, not we; and it is precisely in his person, not in our, that we feel the suffering, to our own grief and sorrow. We suffer with him and hence in him; we feel his pain as his, and do not imagine that it is ours. [Schopenhauer uses the word “compassion” in a way similar to “empathy.”]

Lipps, T. 1903. The psychological state of imaginatively projecting oneself into another’s situation. [...] The felicitous enjoyment of the objectified self.

Buber, Martin. 1923. The transposition of oneself into another being, thus losing one’s own concreteness.

Titchener, E. 1924. The process of humanizing objects, of reading or feeling ourselves into them.

Rogers, Carl R. 1959. To perceive the internal frame of reference of another with accuracy, and with the emotional components and meanings which pertain thereto as if one were the person, but without ever losing the ‘as if’ condition.

Schafer, Roy. 1959. Empathy involves the inner experience of sharing in and comprehending the momentary psychological state of another person.

Greenson, R. R. 1960. To empathize means to share, to experience the feelings of another person.

Barrett-Lennard, Godfrey T. 1962. Qualitatively it is an active process of desiring to know the full, present and changing awareness of another person, of reaching out to receive his words and signs into experienced meaning that matches at least those aspects of his awareness that are most important to him at the moment. It is an experiencing of the consciousness behind another's outward communication, but with continuous awareness and this consciousness is originating and proceeding in the other.

Stein, Edith. 1964. The experiences of being led by the foreign consciousness… and the givenness of foreign subjects and their experiences.

Stotland, Ezra. 1969. An observer's reacting emotionally because he perceives that another person is experiencing or is about to experience an emotion.

Haynes, L. A. & & Avery, A. W. 1979. The ability to recognize and understand another person’s perceptions and feelings, and to accurately convey that understanding through an accepting response.

Kohut, Heinz, et al. 1984. The capacity to think and feel oneself into the inner life of another person.

Wispe, Lauren. 1986. An attempt by one self-aware self to comprehend unjudgementally the positive and negative experiences of another self.

Berger, D. M. 1987. The capacity to know emotionally what another is experiencing from within the frame of reference of that other person, the capacity to sample the feelings of another or to put oneself in another’s shoes.

Deitch Feshbach, N. 1987. A shared emotional response that is contingent upon cognitive factors. Hoffman, Martin 1987. An affective response more appropriate to another’s situation than one’s own.

Eisenberg, Nancy & Fabes, R.A. 1990. An affective response that stems from the apprehension or comprehension of another’s emotional state or condition, and that is similar to what the other person is feeling or would be expected to feel.

Kohn, A. 1990. The inclination to imagine life as the other, rather than discrete experiences of the other.

Rosenberg, Marshall. 1990. A respectful understanding of what others are experiencing.

Spiro, H. S. 1992. The feeling that persons or objects arouse in us as projections of our feelings and thoughts. It is evident when “I and you” becomes “I am you,” or at least “I might be. Goldman, Alvin. 1993. The ability to put oneself into the mental shoes of another person to understand her emotions and feelings.

Batson, Daniel. 1994. A motivation oriented towards the other.

Gallo, D. 1994. A condition with both a cognitive and affective dimension, it includes the ability accurately to perceive and comprehend the thoughts, feelings and motives of the other to the degree that one can make inferences and predictions consonant with those of the other, while remaining oneself.

Batson et al. 1997. An other-oriented emotional response congruent with another’s perceived welfare.

Darwall, S. 1997. Involves something like a sharing of the other’s mental states, frequently, as from her standpoint.

Ickes, William. 1997. A complex form of psychological inference in which observation, memory, knowledge, and reasoning are combined to yield insights into the thoughts and feelings of others.

Sherman, N. 1998. Empathy enables us to enter another’s world sufficiently to identify with that person so that other emotions, such as compassion or pity, have a chance to grab hold… Through an act of imagination and simulation we appreciate, however fleetingly, something of what another experiences, sees, fears, and desires. We recenter ourselves on that other, seeing through his or her eyes.

Toranzo, N. C. 1998. A multidimensional construct that involves the dynamic interplay of perception, social cognition, and affect.

D'Arms, Justin. 1999. Empathy means someone is being influenced by mechanisms "that tend to influence the emotional reactions of one person– ‘the observer’– so as to produce a match (roughly, some sort of congruence) between these emotions and those of another person [the ‘model’].”

H.H. The Dalai Lama. 1999. Our ability to enter into and, to some extent, share others’ suffering. Ignatieff, M. 1999. The human capability of imagining the pain and degradation done to other human beings as if it were our own.

Goodman, D. 2000. Identifying with the situation and feelings of another person. The capacity to share in the emotional life of another, as well as the ability to imagine the way the world looks from another’s vantage point.

Eisenberg, N. 2002. Empathy is considered a mirroring or vicarious experience of another's emotions, whether they be sorrow or joy.

Schwartz, Wynn. 2002. We recognize others as empathic when we feel that they have accurately acted on or somehow acknowledged in stated or unstated fashion our values or motivations, our knowledge, and our skills or competence, but especially as they appear to recognize the significance of our actions in a manner that we can tolerate their being recognized.

Arnold, R. 2003. An ability to understand the thoughts and feelings of self and others… a sophisticated ability involving attunement, decentring and introspection: an act of thoughtful, heartfelt imagination.

Baron-Cohen, Simon. 2003. Empathy is about spontaneously and naturally tuning into the other person's thoughts and feelings, whatever these might be. There are two major elements to empathy. The first is the cognitive component: Understanding the others feelings and the ability to take their perspective [...] the second element to empathy is the affective component. This is an observer’s appropriate emotional response to another person's emotional state.

Phillips, L. C. 2003. Together, the qualities of care within the experiences of identification and imagination create empathy.

Rosenberg, Marshall. 2003. Empathy, I would say, is presence. Pure presence to what is alive in a person at this moment, bringing nothing in from the past.

Decety, Jean. 2004. A sense of similarity in feelings experienced by the self and the other, without confusion between the two individuals.

Kristjánsson, K. 2004. Sometimes, ‘to empathize with someone’ means having the capacity to discern/understand another’s psychological states… In another and stronger sense, however, ‘to empathize with someone’ means identifying with another’s emotional set-up… In other words, the empathizer has the relevant feelings; he does not merely discern them or imagine what they would feel like.

Pink, D. H. 2004. The ability to imagine yourself in someone else’s position and to intuit what that person is feeling.

Gordon, M. 2005. The ability to identify and to respond appropriately to the feelings and perspectives of others.

Lampert, Khen. 2005. Empathy is what happens to us when we leave our own bodies... and find ourselves either momentarily or for a longer period of time in the mind of the other. We observe reality through her eyes, feel her emotions, share in her pain.

Louie, B. 2005. An other-oriented perspective congruent with another’s sociocultural values, political ideology, and historical context.

Schonert-Reichl, K. A. 2005. An individual’s emotional responsiveness to the emotional experiences of another.

Goleman, D. 2006. Sensing another’s emotions... In today’s psychology, the word ‘empathy’ is used in three distinct senses: knowing another person’s feelings; feeling what that person feels; and responding compassionately to another’s distress.

Laurence, Felicity. 2007. In empathizing, we, while retaining fully the sense of our own distinct consciousness, enter actively and imaginatively into others’ inner states to understand how they experience their world and how they are feeling, reaching out to what we perceive as similar while accepting difference, and experiencing upon reflection our own resulting feelings, appropriate to our own situation as empathic observer, which may be virtually the same feelings or different but sympathetic to theirs, within a context in which we care to respect and acknowledge their human dignity and our shared humanity.

Schertz, Matthe Victor. 2007. The mediation of emotional information involving systemic communicative processes operating between relational subjects.

Blair, R. J. R. & Karina S. Blair. 2009. There are at least three classes of processing, at least partially separable at both the neural and cognitive levels, that can be described as empathy… emotional, cognitive (also known as theory of mind), and motor empathy (where the body postures of others mimic those of the observed individual).

De Waal, F. 2009. Empathy is an automated response…that requires emotional engagement… Seeing another’s emotion arouses our own emotions, and from there we go on constructing a more advanced understanding of the other’s situation. Bodily connections comes first– understanding follows. [...] The capacity to a) be affected by and share the emotional state of another, b) assess the reasons for the other’s state, and c) identify with the other, adopting his or her perspective.

Goubert, L. et al. 2009. A sense of knowing the personal experience of another person… a cognitive appreciation that is accompanied by both affective and behavioral responses.

Hatfield, E. et al. 2009. True empathy requires three distinct skills: the ability to share the other person’s feelings, the cognitive ability to intuit what another person is feeling, and a ‘socially beneficial’ intention to respond compassionately to that person’s distress.

Slote, J. D. 2009. Involves having the feelings of another (involuntarily) aroused in ourselves, as when we see one another.

Trout, J. D. 2009. Empathy is the capacity to accurately understand the position of others – to feel that ‘this could happen to me.’

Watson, J.C. & Greenberg, L. S. 2009. A complex form of psychological inference that enables us to understand the personal experiences of another person through cognitive, evaluative and affective processes.

Nussbaum, Martha. 2010. A capacity for ‘positional thinking,’ the ability to see the world from another creature’s viewpoint.

Rifkin, J. 2010. Empathy is felt and reasoned simultaneously. It is a quantum experience…. Empathy allows us to stretch our sensibility with another so that we can cohere in larger social units. To empathize is to civilize. To civilize is to empathize.

Engelen, Eva-Maria & Birgitt Röttger-Rössler. 2012. A social feeling that consists in feelingly grasping or retracing the present, future, or past emotional state of the other; thus, empathy is also called a vicarious emotion.

Battarbee, Katja, Jane Fulton Suri & Suzanne Gibbs Howard. 2014, The ability to be aware of, understanding of, and sensitive to another person’s feelings and thoughts without having had the same experience.

Houkom , In popular usage the idea refers to the emotional resonance between two people, when, like strings tuned to the same frequency, each responds in perfect sympathy to the other and each reinforces the responses of the other. A good example of this occurs in the statement: "Aleatoric concert music, like jazz, demands a strong empathy between performer and listener."