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Understanding Empathy and Its Implications

Apr 12, 2023 | 0 comments

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Apr 12, 2023 | Essays | 0 comments

Empathy is a word used to define experiences in different dimensions. Emotional researchers normally define empathy as an individual’s ability to sense other people’s emotions, together with the capability of imagining what another person might be feeling or thinking.
Contemporary researchers have often given two types of empathy: affective empathy and cognitive empathy. To start with, affective empathy is used when referring to the feelings and sensations that are achieved in response to other people’s emotions. These responses can mirror the feeling of another individual or, in other cases, get stressed after detecting another individual’s anxiety or fear. Cognitive empathy, also referred to as “perspective taking, ” refers to an individual’s ability to understand and identify other people’s emotions. According to different researchers, individuals who have autism spectrum disorder have difficulties in empathizing (Daltry et al., 617).

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According to Daltry, Mehr, Sauers, and Silbert (618), empathy is said to have a deep background in our bodies, brains, and evolutionary history. Empathy elementary forms have been experimented with from primate relatives, for example, in rats and dogs. Consequently, empathy has been related to two diverse brain pathways, whereby scientists have made speculations that showed that some features of empathy have traces in the mirror neurons, which are cells located in the brain that fire on observing another individual act in a similar way they can fire if allowed to perform the same action themselves. Daltry et al. (619) uncovered genetic evidence based on empathy, suggesting that individuals can restrict or enhance their natural empathy abilities through their brain cells. Having empathy does not essentially mean that a person wants to assist someone in need; nevertheless, it is often a crucial first step to the actions of compassion.
Empathy, in some cases, can hinder social actions or result in amoral actions. For instance, a witness of a car accident overwhelmed by passion and seeing the victim suffering in severe pain may fail to help the victims. Likewise, a strong empathy for our family members or racial or social group might result in aggression or hate towards those we see as a threat (Daltry et al., 620). To explain this point, think about a father or a father giving protection to their children or a patriot protecting their native country.
Interestingly, individuals with high psychopathic traits normally give more utilitarian replies during moral dilemmas like footbridge problems. In showing empathy, in this situation, an individual is faced with either pushing one person off the bridge to stop a moving train about to cause an accident or killing five people. This act is called the practical philosophy that involves saving five people’s lives by having to kill one person. However, no researcher has ever argued that people with psychopathic tendencies are more moral than normal individuals.
In agreement with Daltry et al. (621), empathy is regularly measured using self-report questionnaires like Questionnaire for Cognitive and Affective Empathy (QCAE) or Interpersonal Reactivity Index (IRI). These questionnaires typically ask individuals to show their agreement with measuring statements of different kinds of empathy. Notably, cognitive empathy is generally determined using the QCAE by adding value to statements like “I try to consider every person’s side during a disagreement before making any decision.” With QCAE, people have a higher grey matter in the anterior insular part of the brain (Daltry et al., 621). This region regulates negative and positive emotions by integrating environmental stimulants with automatic and visceral bodily sensations.
Nonetheless, as documented by Daltry et al. (621), people typically show more empathy to members of their group; from the same ethnic group. For instance, when watching people in pain from our ethnic group, the anterior cingulated brain area, often active on seeing other people in pain, is more active when watching people from our ethnic group than members of a different ethnic group.
Besides, different scholars have stated that brain areas associated with empathy are less activated while seeing individuals suffering who may be acting unfairly. Noteworthy, brain area activation due to empathy may be about subjective pleasure, for instance, while watching the failure of a rival team of sports or during a ventral striatum. These behaviors of the brain on activation towards acts of empathy have corresponded to daily life observations. Generally, people are more excited when their group members win in an activity. However, individuals are unlikely to hurt others because they come from different races, cultures, or groups. Markedly, in-group bias due to empathy is more on in-group love than out-group hate.
Succinctly, the empathetic brain has developed to be vastly adaptive to various kinds of situations. Having and showing empathy is useful as it always helps in understanding other people so we can deceive or help them; however, sometimes, we are required to be in a position to switch off our feelings of empathy in protecting our lives and those of other people.
Works Cited
Daltry, Rachel M., et al. “Examining the Relationship between Empathy for Others and Self-Compassion in College Students.” *Educational Research and Reviews*, vol. 13, no. 17, Sept. 2018, pp. 617–621.

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