SYMPATHY (from the Greek words syn "together" and pathos "feeling" which means "fellow-feeling") is the perception, understanding, and reaction to the distress or need of another life form. This empathic concern is driven by a switch in viewpoint, from a personal perspective to the perspective of another group or individual who is in need.
* 1 Etymology * 2 Causes * 3 Evolutionary origins * 4 Communication * 5 Human behavior * 6 Healthcare * 7 Neuroscience perspectives
* 8 Child development
* 8.1 Theory of mind * 8.2 Innate feature
* 9 See also * 10 References * 11 Further reading * 12 External links
The words empathy and sympathy are often used interchangeably.
Medical personnel aid a suffering woman after the 2010 Haiti earthquake .
In order to get an experience of sympathy there are specific
conditions that need to occur. These include: attention to a subject,
believing that a person/group is in a state of need, and the specific
characteristics of a given situation. An individual must first give
his or her attention to a person/group. Distractions severely limit
the ability to produce strong affective responses. Without
distractions, people are able to attend to and respond to a variety of
emotional subjects and experiences.
The need of an individual/group is also considered to elicit sympathy. Varying states of need (such as perceived vulnerability or pain) require unique human reactions, ranging from attention to sympathy. A person with cancer might draw a stronger feeling of sympathy than a person with a cold. The conditions which sympathy is deemed as an appropriate response are organized into individual differences and situational differences.
The ways in which people think about human deservingness, interdependence, and vulnerability motivate sympathy. A person who seems 'deserving' of aid is more likely to be helped. A belief in human interdependence fuels sympathetic behavior.
Individual moods, previous experiences, social connections, novelty, salience, and spatial proximity can also influence the experience of sympathy. Individuals experiencing positive mood states and people who have similar life experiences are more likely to produce sympathy.
Spatial proximity, or when a person or group exists close geographically (such as neighbors and citizens of a given country), they will more likely experience sympathy towards each other. Similarly, social proximity follows the same pattern. Members of certain groups (ex. racial groups) favor people who are also members of groups similar to their own. Social proximity is intimately linked with in-group and out-group status. In-group status, or a person falling within a certain social group, is also integral to the experience of sympathy. Both of these processes are based on the notion that people within the same group are interconnected and share successes and failures and therefore experience more sympathy towards each other than to out-group members, or social outsiders.
New and emotionally provoking situations also represent an explanation for empathic emotions, such as sympathy. People seem to habituate to events that are similar in content and type and strength of emotion. The first horrific event that is witnessed will elicit a greater sympathetic response compared to the subsequent experiences of the same horrific event.
The evolution of sympathy is tied directly into the development of social intelligence . Social intelligence references a broad range of behaviors, and their associated cognitive skills, such as pair bonding, the creation of social hierarchies, and alliance formation. Researchers theorize that empathic emotions, or those relating to the emotions of others, arose due to reciprocal altruism, mother-child bonding, and the need to accurately estimate the future actions of conspecifics. In other words, empathic emotions were driven by the desire to create relationships that were mutually beneficial and to better understand the emotions of others that could avert danger or stimulate positive outcomes. By working together, there were better results for everyone. Social order is improved when people are able to provide aid to others when it is a detriment to oneself for the good of the greater society. For example, giving back to the community often leads to personal benefits.
The conditions necessary to develop empathic concerns, and later sympathy, begin with the creation of a small group of socially dependent individuals. Second, the individuals in this community must have a relatively long lifespan in order to encounter several opportunities to react with sympathy. Parental care relationships, alliances during conflicts, and the creation of social hierarchies are also associated with the onset of sympathy in human interactions. Sympathetic behavior originally came about during dangerous situations, such as predator sightings, and moments when aid was needed for the sick and/or wounded. The evolution of sympathy as a social catalyst can be seen in both primate species and in human development.
Verbal communication is the clearest medium by which individuals are able to communicate feelings of sympathy. People can express sympathy by addressing the emotions being felt by themselves and others involved and by acknowledging the current environmental conditions for why sympathy would be the appropriate reaction.
Nonverbal communication presents a fascinating study of speech intonation, facial expression, bodily motions and person-to-person physical contacts. Some other forms of nonverbal communication include how far people position themselves in relation to each other, posture and appearance. These forms of expression can convey messages related to emotion as well as opinions, physical states (fatigue), and understanding. Emotional expression is especially linked to the production of emotion-specific facial expressions. These expressions are often the same from culture to culture and are often reproduced by observers, which facilitates the observers' own understanding of the emotion and/or situation. There are six universal emotions: happiness, sadness, fear, surprise, disgust and anger. Facial expressions can communicate sympathy and other emotions nonverbally.
Nonverbal communication cues are often subconscious and difficult to control. Deliberate regulation of emotion and nonverbal expression is often imperfect. Nonverbal gestures and facial expressions are also generally better understood by people observing the gestures, expressions, etc., and not by the person experiencing them first hand.
Communicating using physical touch has the unique ability of conveying affective information upon contact. However, this sensation must be paired with the understanding of the specific context of a given situation. The touch of the hand on the shoulder during a funeral might be the fastest method of conveying sympathy. Patting a person on their back, arms, or head for a few seconds can effectively convey feelings of sympathy between people. Nonverbal communication seems to provide a more genuine communication of sympathy, because it is difficult to control nonverbal behavior and expressions. The combination of verbal and nonverbal communication facilitates the acknowledgment and comprehension of sympathy.
Although sympathy is a well-known term, the implications of sympathy
found in the study of human behavior are often less clear.
Decision-making, an integral part of human behavior, involves the
weighing of costs with potential outcomes. Research on decision-making
has been divided into two mechanisms, often labeled "System 1" and
"System 2." These two systems, representing the gut and the head
respectively, influence decisions based on context and the individual
characteristics of the people involved.
In addition to its influence on decision-making, sympathy also plays a role in maintaining social order. Judging people's character helps to maintain social order, making sure that those who are in need receive the appropriate care. The notion of interdependence fuels sympathetic behavior; this action is seen as self-satisfying because helping someone who is connected to you through some way (family, social capital) will often result in a personal reward (social, monetary, etc.). Regardless of selflessness or selfishness, sympathy facilitates the cycle of give and take that is necessary for maintaining a functional society.
Social and emotional stimuli, particularly those related to the
well-being of another person, are being more directly studied with
advent of technology that can track brain activity (such as
Electroencephalograms and functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging ).
Generally, empathic emotions (including sympathy), require the activation of top-down and bottom-up activity. Top-down activity refers to cognitive processes that originate from the frontal lobe and require conscious thought whereas bottom-up activity begins from sensation of stimuli in the environment. From the sensory level, people must sense and experience the emotional cues of another. At the same time, indicative of the dual-process theory, top-down responses must be enacted to make sense of the emotional inputs streaming in and apply motive and environmental influence analyses to better understand the situation. Top-down processes often include attention to emotion and emotion regulation.
A baby will often cry at the sound of another baby's cries.
It is important to acknowledge that the use or acceptance of sympathy can be both altruistic and self-satisfying in social situations. Parenting styles (specifically level of affection) can influence the development of sympathy. Prosocial and moral development extends into adolescence and early adulthood as humans learn to better assess and interpret the emotions of others. Prosocial behaviours have been observed in children 1–2 years old. Through self-report methods it is difficult to measure emotional responses as they are not as able to report these responses as well as adult. This is representative of an increased efficiency of and ability to engage in internal moral reasoning.
THEORY OF MIND
The development of theory of mind , or the ability to view the world from perspectives of other people, is strongly associated with the development of sympathy and other complex emotions. These emotions are complex because they involve more than just one's own emotional states; complex emotions involve the interplay of multiple people's varying and fluctuating thoughts and emotions within given contexts. The ability to experience vicarious emotion, or imagining how another person feels, is integral for empathic concern. Moral development is similarly tied to the understanding of outside perspectives and emotions. Moral reasoning has been divided into five categories beginning with a hedonistic self-orientation and ending with an internalized sense of needs of others, including empathic emotions.
A study conducted in Switzerland in 2006 sought to find whether or not sympathy demonstrated by children was solely for personal benefit, or if the emotion was an innate part of development. Parents, teachers, and 1,300 children (aged 6 and 7) were interviewed regarding the child's behavior. Over the course of one year, questionnaires were filled out regarding the progress and behavior of each youth. Thereafter, an interview was conducted in the spring of 2007. The study concluded that children do develop sympathy and empathy independently of parental guidance. Furthermore, the study found that girls are more sympathetic, prosocial, and morally motivated than boys. Prosocial behavior has been noted in children as young as 12 months when showing and giving toys to their parents, without promoting or being reinforced by praise. Levels of prosocial behavior increased with sympathy in children with low moral motivation, as it reflects the link between innate abilities and honing them with the guidance of parents and teachers.
* ^ A B C Tear, J; Michalska, KJ (2010). "Neurodevelopmental
changes in the circuits underlying empathy and sympathy from childhood
to adulthood". Developmental Science. 13 (6): 886–899. PMID 20977559
. doi :10.1111/j.1467-7687.2009.00940.x .
* ^ Lishner, D. A.; Batson, C. D.; Huss, E. (2011). "Tenderness and
Sympathy: Distinct Empathic Emotions Elicited by Different Forms of
Need". Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin. 37 (5): 614–625.
doi :10.1177/0146167211403157 .
* ^ "Definition of empathy". Merriam-Webster.
* ^ Bloom, Paul. "Against Empathy". Boston Review. Retrieved 28
* ^ "
* Decety, J. and Ickes, W. (Eds.) (2009). The Social Neuroscience of Empathy. Cambridge: MIT Press, Cambridge. * Decety, J. and Batson, C.D. (Eds.) (2007). Interpersonal Sensitivity: Entering Others' Worlds. Hove: Psychology Press. * Eisenberg, N., Batson, C.D.; Decety, J. (2007). "The neural substrate of human empathy: effects of perspective-taking and cognitive appraisal". Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience. 19: 42–58. PMID 17214562 . doi :10.1162/jocn.2007.19.1.42 .
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