The Social Neuroscience of Empathy

After decades as the cultivated interest of scholars in philosophy and in clinical and developmental psychology, empathy research is suddenly everywhere! Seemingly overnight it has blossomed into a vibrant, multidisciplinary field of study and has crossed the boundaries of clinical and developmental psychology to plant its roots fi rmly in the soil of personality and social psychology, mainstream cognitive psychology, and cognitive-affective neuroscience.

To account for the recent explosion of empathy research, we must trace its growth to roots that are less obvious but even deeper than those mentioned so far: the study of the capacity for empathy in evolutionary biology and evolutionary psychology. As Sue Carter, James Harris, and Stephen Porges argue in chapter 13 of the present volume, the capacity for empathy in humans and their progenitor species developed over millions of years of evolutionary history, in ways that are only now becoming clear. Although it is impossible to travel back in time and observe these developments directly, the evidence for them is available in the neuroanatomical continuities and differences that can be observed across the phylogenetic spectrum.



About Giorgio Bertini

Director at Learning Change Project - Research on society, culture, art, neuroscience, cognition, critical thinking, intelligence, creativity, autopoiesis, self-organization, rhizomes, complexity, systems, networks, leadership, sustainability, thinkers, futures ++
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