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The Social Neuroscience of Empathy$
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Jean Decety and William Ickes

Print publication date: 2009

Print ISBN-13: 9780262012973

Published to MIT Press Scholarship Online: August 2013

DOI: 10.7551/mitpress/9780262012973.001.0001

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Introduction: Seeking to Understand the Minds (and Brains) of People Who Are Seeking to Understand Other People’s Minds

Introduction: Seeking to Understand the Minds (and Brains) of People Who Are Seeking to Understand Other People’s Minds

Chapter:
(p.vii) Introduction: Seeking to Understand the Minds (and Brains) of People Who Are Seeking to Understand Other People’s Minds
Source:
The Social Neuroscience of Empathy
Author(s):

Jean Decety

William Ickes

Publisher:
The MIT Press
DOI:10.7551/mitpress/9780262012973.003.0001

Empathy research, which has long been a focus of scholars in philosophy and in clinical and developmental psychology, has emerged as a multidisciplinary discipline encompassing personality and social psychology, cognitive-affective neuroscience, and mainstream cognitive psychology. This book examines the concept of empathy and the variety of meanings it has engendered from a social neuroscience perspective. It looks at eight conceptually distinct phenomena that have all been labeled “empathy” and discusses a range of clinical perspectives on empathy. The book considers the role of empathy in the Rogerian client-centered perspective, how empathy is achieved during psychotherapy, the concept of empathic resonance from a neuroscience perspective, how empathy is related to morality and social convention, and the role of empathy in people’s reactions to others in pain. It also discusses the evolutionary and neuroanatomical history of empathy, with an emphasis on the mirror neuron system and the distinction between empathy and personal distress. Finally, the book argues that empathy involves separate but otherwise interacting brain networks.

Keywords:   empathy, social neuroscience, client-centered perspective, psychotherapy, morality, social convention, pain, mirror neuron system, personal distress, brain networks

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