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Exploring the phenomenon of empathy
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Exploring the phenomenon, of empathy, Jakob H kansson. Department of Psychology, STOCKHOLM UNIVERSITY, Cover Reflex i bl tt by Eva Bonnier. Printed with permission from National Museum Stockholm Sweden. 2003 Jakob H kansson, ISBN 91 7265 602 6, Akademitryck AB Edsbruk 2003. Doctoral dissertation 2003, Department of Psychology. Stockholm University, S 106 91 Stockholm, Although empathy is the phenomenon that connects otherwise isolated.
individuals knowledge concerning the nature of this phenomenon is still. scarce This thesis presents three studies on empathy based on qualitative. and quantitative data In Study 1 narrative accounts of empathy situations. were collected to identify constituents that exist in both empathizers and. targets experiences of empathy From both perspectives the constituents. of empathy included the empathizer understanding the target the target. experiencing one or more emotions the empathizer perceiving a similarity. between what the target is experiencing and something the empathizer has. experienced earlier and the empathizer being concerned for the target s. well being Similarity of experience occurs at different levels of. abstraction Study 2 consisted of three experiments exploring the role of a. person s actions in how empathetic the person is perceived as being In the. experiments participants read different versions of an empathy story The. results suggested that action is crucial in the experience of empathy from. both empathizer s and target s perspectives as well as from the perspective. of an unspecified observer Study 3 explored in two experiments how. empathy is related to viewing another individual as a subject object The. results revealed that subject view and perceived difficulty of the person s. situation together explain a considerable part of differences in empathy. The empirical findings are discussed in a broader context of altruism. morality similarity of experience and foreign experience. Key words Emotion action similarity of experience understanding. altruism subject view interpersonal phenomenon morality foreign. experience, To my family, Empathy is the experience of foreign consciousness in. Edith Stein, 1917 1989 p 11, Altruism itself depends on a recognition of the reality of other. persons and on the equivalent capacity to regard oneself as. merely one individual among many, Thomas Nagel, 1970 1978 p 3. Acknowledgements, This thesis was supported financially with stipends from the Department of. Psychology at Stockholm University the Lars Hierta Memory Foundation. and The Wallenberg Foundation, First of all I would like to thank my supervisor Henry Montgomery for.
all his encouragement kindness knowledge and inspiration and for. making me feel important the really great people are those who make. others feel important Also I wish to express my sincere gratitude to my. second supervisor Lars Gunnar Lundh for his nice and insightful way of. reflecting and commenting upon this work Thanks also to Anna Blom. Kemdal Ulla Holm Petra Lindfors and Gunilla Preisler for valuable. comments on a preliminary version of the thesis, Special thanks goes to Petra Lindfors for supporting me and helping. out in various ways without Petra my time in the graduate program would. not have been the same Also I am particularly grateful to Kimmo. Sorjonen for discussing the philosophical ideas behind this thesis as well as. for helping with more practical aspects of the work. I am grateful to the people in our research group including Ivars. Austers Anna Blom Kemdal Girts Dimdins Anna Lena Erixon Maria. Sandgren Parvaneh Sharafi Peter Skaldeman Peter Thunholm and Gustaf. T rngren for support nice discussions and friendship and to other. colleagues and friends at the department particularly Lars R Bergman. Helena Bj rk Elisabet Borg Susanna Bylin Eva Chinapah Sven ke. Christianson Anna D derman Johan Enkvist Ulrika Eriksson Hallberg. Jan Von Essen Johan Fallby Emelie Fisher Ulla Gautam Sara G ransson. Luki Hagen Nathalie Hassm n Birgitta Hellstr m Juliska Kansi G ran. Kentt Maria Larsson Catharina Lewin Torun Lindholm Martin. L vd n Farah Moniri Lars G ran Nilsson Linda R m Sanny Shamoun. Margareta Simonsson Sarnecki Ola Svenson G ran S derlund Hedvig. S derlund Jenny Wikstr m Johan Willander and Carola berg as well as. to Anna Karin Magnusson and Birgitta Qvarsell at the Department of. Education Also this thesis benefited significantly from insightful. discussions with Gunnar Borg Jan Dalkvist Gunnar Karlsson and David. Magnusson For always being ready to help with more administrative and. practical things I wish to thank Peter Alml f H kan Bergqvist Ahsan. Butt Bernhard Devine Henrik Dun r Anne Marie Pettersson Barbro. Svensson Karl Arne Tingstr m and Maria Wiklund, I also owe a lot to za Alandh and Clara Westman for being with me. when my research first began and for encouraging me to move on with. theory although they had already realized empathy above all should be. practiced Others who showed me empathy in practice long before I even. knew the term existed were Anna Nilsson and Liselotte Lindeberg as well. as Wayne W Dyer through his books, I like to express my gratitude to the people who made me feel. welcome in America during 1998 1999 as a friend guest and student of. psychology especially my friends Suzanne Byke Gail Johnson David. Loving Casey Moore Mike Bumgardner my host parents Mittie and. George Durham and my cousins Cindy Bruce and Becky Gimbel I am. also grateful to my professors at the Department of Psychology University. of Oklahoma Dr Laura Brannon Dr Kirby Gililand Dr Scott Gronlund. Dr Vicky Perkins and Dr Gene Walker who made me understand why. empathy research and psychology in general has flourished in the United. States Thanks also to Dr Philip Aust for reading my papers and. encouraging me to move forward, In the area of philosophy I wish to thank Niklas Larsson and Carolina. Reichard for facing The moral problem together with me Jonas Karlsson. for introducing me to the philosophy of Schopenhauer Staffan Carlshamre. for pointing out when I was wrong Gunnar Bj rnsson for saying I was on. the right track and Thomas Nagel for telling me he had worried about the. same for a long time, Finally I want to express my gratitude to my family including Mom.
Dad Kickan Anders Joel Grandfather Grandmother and to my friends. Anders Frisk Sven Erik Larsson Andreas Olsson za Alandh Silvia. Badulescu Alacia Benedicto and Ulf Jonson for supporting me in this work. as well as in every other way, The present thesis is based on the following studies. I H kansson J Montgomery H in press Empathy as, an interpersonal phenomenon Journal of Social and Personal. Relationships, II H kansson J Montgomery H 2002 The role of action in empathy. from the perspectives of the empathizer and the target Current Research in. Social Psychology 8 50 62, III H kansson J 2003 Empathy and viewing the other as a subject. Manuscript submitted for publication, 1 INTRODUCTION 1.
Definitions and theories of empathy 1, Historical views of empathy 1. Two influential contributions 3, Rogers contribution 3. Kohut s contribution 6, Contemporary research on empathy 7. Hoffman s research on empathy 9, Eisenberg s research on empathy 10. Batson s research on empathy 12, Davis research on empathy 15.
Comments 17, Empathy and understanding 17, The process of understanding 17. The object of the understanding 18, Comments 19, Empathy and emotion 19. Target s emotion 19, Empathizer s emotion 20, Comments 20. Empathy and similarity of experience 21, Empathy related to similarity of experience in the literature 21. Empirical research on the role of similar experience 22. Comments 23, Empathy and concern for the other s well being 24.
Comments 24, Empathy and moral principles 25, Comments 25. The Simulation account versus the Theory account of 26. Comments 27, Empathy and viewing the other as a subject versus an object 27. Comments 29, Aims of this thesis 29, 2 SUMMARY OF THE EMPIRICAL STUDIES 30. Study I Empathy as an Interpersonal Phenomenon 30, Background and aim 30. Major findings 31, Discussion 31, Study II The Role of Action in Empathy from the Perspectives of.
the Empathizer and the Target 32, Background and aim 32. Major findings 33, Discussion 34, Study III Empathy and Viewing the Other as a Subject 34. Background and aim 34, Major findings 35, Discussion 36. 3 GENERAL DISCUSSION OF THE EMPIRICAL STUDIES 37, Main findings and contributions of this research 37. Shortcomings and limitations 38, 4 EMPATHY IN A BROADER CONTEXT AND DIRECTIONS.
FOR FUTURE RESEARCH 39, Empathy altruism and morality 39. Empathy as understanding and concern 40, Empathy as a possible solution to the moral problem 40. Future research on empathy altruism and morality 41. Empathy and similarity of experience 42, Similarity at different abstraction levels 42. Oneness 43, Future research on empathy and similarity of experience 43. Empathy and foreign experience 44, Empathy as a way of connecting to foreign experience 44.
Future research on empathy and foreign experience 46. 5 CONCLUDING REMARKS 47, 6 REFERENCES 49, 1 INTRODUCTION. The fact that other people have experiences can easily be understood. theoretically In contrast to experientially understand consciousness. outside of one s own is far more difficult However if one succeeds in. experientially grasping the subjectivity of another person this can be a. remarkable experience that by incorporating a new subjective world. literally expands one s own, The vast majority of philosophers and psychologists have regarded. empathy as a kind of understanding of another person s thoughts and. feelings It is fairly common that those who view empathy as a kind of. understanding argue that others who speak about empathy as benevolence. or concern have blurred the distinction between understanding and caring. In many contexts it is certainly reasonable to distinguish between. understanding something and caring for it but when it comes to the. empathy phenomenon this may not be true According to Rogers 1975 it. is impossible accurately to sense the perceptual world of another person. unless you value that person and his world unless you in some sense. Although it is often recognized that empathy is the phenomenon that. connects otherwise isolated individuals cf Barrett Lennard 1997 Davis. 1996 knowledge concerning the nature of the phenomenon as well as its. relations to other phenomena is scarce Therefore in the present thesis the. empathy phenomenon will be investigated in three empirical studies using. qualitative as well as quantitative data and will be discussed in a broader. theoretical context, Definitions and theories of empathy. In order to provide a background to the empirical studies and the. theoretical discussion previous literature and research are reviewed in this. section Here it will be described how empathy was studied during the. twentieth century and bloomed due to Carl Rogers and Heinz Kohut after. World War II The section ends with a review of the dominating research in. the field today, Historical views of empathy, The term empathy is of relatively recent origin having been coined by. Titchener 1909 Conceptually however the notion of empathy or. Einf hlung grew out of earlier work in German aesthetics by Lipps Lipps. 1903 1905 and Prandtl Prandtl 1910 Lipps 1903 1905 was one of the. most important in this connection because he systematically organized the. concept of Einf hlung The concept referred to the tendency of perceivers. to project themselves into the objects of perception which can be. considered a kind of animism These subjective qualities were experienced. by the person as being in the object objects were felt as well as seen Lipps. 1903 1905 appropriated the term for use in more psychological contexts. first applying it to the study of optical illusions and later to the process by. which we come to know other people The English word empathy was. actually invented by Titchener 1909 as a translation he coined the. term as a rendering of Lipps Einf hlung which he defined as a process of. humanizing objects of reading or feeling ourselves into them Titchener. 1924 p 417, Theories of empathy in psychology were largely influenced by the.
affective view of Lipps and Titchener until Kohler 1929 who was one of. the first to argue in a more cognitive vein Rather than continuing to focus. on feeling into the experiences of another Kohler held that empathy was. more the understanding of the other s feelings than a sharing of them At. roughly the same time two other highly influential theorists George. Herbert Mead Mead 1934 and Jean Piaget Piaget 1932 separately. addressed the question of empathy and both offered views that emphasized. the cognitive over the emotional Mead who recognized the self other. differentiation in empathy added a cognitive component an ability to. understand to empathy Mead s 1934 work placed a huge emphasis on. the individual s capacity to take on the role of other persons as a means of. understanding how they view the world Mead saw the child s ability of. role taking as the key to social and ethical development Also Piaget with. psychology especially my friends Suzanne Byke Gail Johnson David Loving Casey Moore Mike Bumgardner my host parents Mittie and George Durham and my cousins Cindy Bruce and Becky Gimbel I am also grateful to my professors at the Department of Psychology University of Oklahoma Dr Laura Brannon Dr Kirby Gililand Dr Scott Gronlund Dr Vicky Perkins and Dr Gene Walker who made

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