The inconsistent definition of empathy has had a negative impact on both research and practice. The aim of this article is to review and critically appraise a range of definitions of empathy and, through considered analysis, to develop a new conceptualization. From the examination of 43 discrete definitions, 8 themes relating to the nature of empathy emerged: “distinguishing empathy from other concepts”; “cognitive or affective?”; “congruent or incongruent?”; “subject to other stimuli?”; “self/other distinction or merging?”; “trait or state influences?”; “has a behavioral outcome?”; and “automatic or controlled?” The relevance and validity of each theme is assessed and a new conceptualization of empathy is offered. The benefits of employing a more consistent and complete definition of empathy are discussed.
Research Professor. Director at Learning Change Project – Research on society, culture, art, neuroscience, cognition, critical thinking, intelligence, creativity, autopoiesis, self-organization, rhizomes, complexity, systems, networks, leadership, sustainability, thinkers, futures ++
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