What is Empathy?
Empathy involves connecting, building relationships, listening, and caring for others. Colesante defines empathy as "the intrapersonal realization of another's plight that illuminates the potential consequences of one's own actions on the lives of others" (as cited in Hollingsworth, 2003, p. 146) making it possible for us to learn how to act and react responsibly, or even compassionately, towards others. Empathy enables us to reach out and connect with others in our human condition, and it is a crucial need for our species, having an intrinsic evolutionary and neurological basis for development.   
 
 
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Different parts of the brain control empathetic mechanisms like:
  • Modeling - Simulating an observed experience to understand, even feel that observed experiencer
  • Projection - Moving out of your own point of view to another's
  • Adjustment - Balancing between self and others (Lewis, 2007)
These three stages, or steps in the empathic response give a picture of what empathy looks like in a practical sense. There are two aspects of empathy that researchers focus on and study:
  • Cognitive empathy - The “ability to know what another person is thinking or feeling” (Reuckert, 2008, p.162),
  • Affective empathy - The ability to actually feels another's emotional state (Reuckert, 2008, p.162) (Hatcher, 1994).
Though these mechanisms in empathy are seen in both hemispheres in the brain there is a correlation between deficits in empathy and a “decrease in volume of the right temporal lobe” (Reuckert, 2008, p.163). The right hemisphere, in its ability to contextualize and synthesize information, is extremely important in the empathic response. It has the ability to recognize and interpret non-verbal cues and facial expressions, and it puts this information into context and activates background knowledge relating to this information.
 
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