The Construct Of Empathy, By Great Thinkers From Various Disciplines

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The construct of empathy attracts the interest of academics from various fields of study, particularly in subfields of psychology. Its function and associated processes in moral development have been discussed for centuries by great thinkers from various disciplines. Hoffman (1982) defines empathy as “an affective response more appropriate to another’s situation than one’s own”. Nonetheless, the notion of empathy has always been a complex concept, and the lack of uniformity in the usage and understanding of the term underlying the multiple definitions and conceptualizations implies that there is no correct definition. In other words, there seems to be a pregnant ambiguous consensus on how we empathise with others. However, one could rightfully argue that this ambiguity echoes the multidimensional aspect of empathy that involves not only automatic and emotional aspects but also aspects of a more reflective and conceptual kind. Due to empathy’s value in our society, multiple attempts have been made to develop instruments and procedures, varying from cross-species comparative studies (Flombaum & Santos, 2005; Silk, Brosnan, Vonk, Henrich, Povinelli, Richardson, et al., 2005) to characterizing the neural basis of empathy using fMRI (Singer, 2006; Singer & Lamm, 2009). Psychologists have consistently worked on conceptualizing and ultimately measuring empathy. Such efforts led to the development of countless instruments, with the most common ones being self-report

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