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(WAGAMAN + 2014)

Varying definitions of empathy have emerged over the years; however, recent advances in cognitive neuroscience have identified key components that together make up the full array of empathy (Decety, 2011; Decety & Moriguchi, 2007). 

This research is based on the cognitive neuroscience conceptualization of empathy. As such, empathy comprises four subjectively experienced components: 
Affective response is a physiological component that involves the automatic and unconscious process of affect sharing, or the mirroring of another person’s actions.

For example, when sitting with a client who is crying, a practitioner might feel as if she or he is going to cry. This is a result of the automatic mirroring action that is going on unconsciously. Our mirroring neuron system activates the same physiological sensations as if we are actually doing the action. However, rather than begin to cry, the practitioner experiences the other components of empathy that are triggered to process this affective response. The other three components are cognitive processes.

Self–other awareness consists of an ability to recognize and understand one’s own emotions and thoughts as well as distinguish the self from others.

Perspective taking involves the ability to understand another’s experiences while maintaining awareness of the self and the distinction from the other.

Emotion regulation refers to one’s ability to control or regulate one’s emotions. In the aforementioned example, by engaging all three of these cognitive components, the practitioner is able to feel the client’s distress of crying but
recognize the difference between the client’s actions and the practitioner’s own physiological reactions, use those feelings to engage in deep understanding, and simultaneously regulate her or his own emotions so as not to be overwhelmed. For the full array of empathy to occur, all four components need to be well functioning. Each component, and consequently empathy as a whole, involves skills that can be learned."