Empathy is a vicarious socioemotional response—that is, it occurs when one becomes aware of another individual’s emotion (or situation suggesting a relevant emotion, such as hearing someone receiving bad news). There are many definitions of empathy in the literature, but there is broad agreement that empathy consists of feeling an emotion that is similar to what the other individual is expressing or likely experiencing. The ability to experience empathy is manifested throughout the life span and plays an important role in healthy social functioning. Empathy is multidimensional, and the entry first explains its different components and forms. It then summarizes research findings regarding empathy development from infancy to old age. Subsequent sections review the linkages of empathy to prosocial behavior and social adjustment, and ...

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