Below is the abstract of a forthcoming BBS target article
Empathy: Its ultimate and proximate bases
Stephanie D. Preston & Frans B. M. de Waal
This article has been accepted for publication in Behavioral and Brain
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Empathy: Its ultimate and proximate bases
altruism; cognitive empathy; comparative; emotion;
emotional contagion; empathy; evolution; human; perception-action;
There is disagreement in the literature about the exact nature of the
phenomenon of empathy. There are emotional, cognitive, and conditioning
views, applying in varying degrees across species. An adequate description
of the ultimate and proximate mechanism can integrate these views.
Proximately, the perception of an object's state activates the subject's
corresponding representations, which in turn activate somatic and
autonomic responses. This mechanism supports basic behaviors (e.g., alarm,
social facilitation, vicariousness of emotions, mother-infant
responsiveness, and the modeling of competitors and predators) that are
crucial for the reproductive success of animals living in groups. The
"Perception-Action Model" (PAM) together with an understanding of how
representations change with experience can explain the major empirical
effects in the literature (similarity, familiarity, past experience,
explicit teaching and salience). It can also predict a variety of empathy
disorders. The interaction between the PAM and prefrontal functioning can
also explain different levels of empathy across species and age groups.
This view can advance our evolutionary understanding of empathy beyond
inclusive fitness and reciprocal altruism and can explain different levels
of empathy across individuals, species, stages of development, and
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PSYCOLOQUY is a refereed electronic journal (ISSN 1055-0143)
sponsored by the American Psychological Association
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