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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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Neural and Evolutionary Perspectives on Empathy

Neural and Evolutionary Perspectives on Empathy

(p.169) 13 Neural and Evolutionary Perspectives on Empathy
The Social Neuroscience of Empathy

C. Sue Carter

James Harri

Stephen W. Porges

The MIT Press

This chapter focuses on autonomic and neuroendocrine processes that underlie social behaviors and emotional states, including those that are believed to reflect empathy in humans. Empathy has been considered a unique characteristic of human consciousness, but evidence suggests that emotional contagion and consolation exist in other mammalian species, including social primates such as bonobo chimpanzees. The chapter argues that empathy is a trait shared by humans with other mammals and linked to the neural circuits that emerged during the evolutionary transition from reptiles to mammals. It discusses empathy in relation to the evolution of social awareness in mammals, along with the neuroendocrine correlates of sociality, prosocial behaviors in highly social mammals, the role of neuropeptides in selective sociality, and possible mechanisms for sex differences in sociality or empathy.

Keywords:   social behaviors, emotional states, empathy, humans, mammals, neural circuits, evolution, social awareness, sociality, neuropeptides

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