Empathy  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Empathy is the capacity to recognize emotions that are being experienced by another sentient or fictional being. One may need to have a certain amount of empathy before being able to experience accurate sympathy or compassion. The English word was coined in 1909 by the psychologist Edward B. Titchener in an attempt to translate the German word "Einfühlungsvermögen", a new phenomenon explored at the end of 19th century mainly by philosopher Theodor Lipps. It was later re-translated into the German language as "Empathie", and is still in use there.

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'Lack of empathy' or 'atypical empathic response'

Atypical empathic responses are found in people on the autism spectrum, those with particular personality disorders such as borderline personality disorder, psychopathy, narcissistic personality disorder, and schizoid personality disorder, in addition to people with conduct disorder or bipolar disorder, and those experiencing depersonalization.

Psychopathy

Some psychopaths are able to detect the emotions of others with such a theory of mind and can mimic caring and friendship in a convincing manner, often in an effort to exploit others. While some psychopaths can detect what others are feeling, they do not experience any reciprocal emotion or sympathy. However, some research indicates that components of neural circuits involved in empathy may also be dysfunctional in psychopathy.

Enjoyment of others' suffering

The same ability may underlie schadenfreude (taking pleasure in the pain of another entity) and sadism (being sexually gratified through the infliction of pain or humiliation on another person). Recently, an fMRI study conducted by Jean Decety and colleagues at the University of Chicago has demonstrated that youth with aggressive conduct disorder (who have psychopathic tendencies) have a different brain response when confronted with empathy-eliciting stimuli. In the study, researchers compared 16- to 18-year-old boys with aggressive conduct disorder to a control group of adolescent boys with no unusual signs of aggression. The boys with the conduct disorder had exhibited disruptive behavior such as starting a fight, using a weapon and stealing after confronting a victim. The youth were tested with fMRI while looking at video clips in which people endured pain accidentally, such as when a heavy bowl was dropped on their hands, and intentionally, such as when a person stepped on another's foot. Results show that the aggressive youth activated the neural circuits underpinning pain processing to the same extent and, in some cases, even more so than the control participants without conduct disorder. However, aggressive adolescents showed a specific and very strong activation of the amygdala and ventral striatum (an area that responds to feeling rewarded) when watching pain inflicted on others, which suggested that they enjoyed watching pain. Unlike the control group, the youth with conduct disorder did not activate the area of the brain involved in self-regulation and moral reasoning.

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Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Empathy" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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