Antecedents of Empathic Concern
In everyday life, there seem to be two antecedents of empathic concern: (a) perceiving the other as in need and (b) valuing the other’s welfare. This chapter considers each of these antecedents, as well as other possible ones—perceived innocence, similarity, and perspective taking. Cognitive abilities required to perceive need are specified, raising the possibility that only humans have the capacity to experience empathic concern. It is suggested that valuing another’s welfare naturally leads to perspective taking, allowing the latter to serve as a proxy for the former in laboratory research. Valuing of the other’s welfare is linked to human parental nurturance, which is emotion-based and goal-directed. Neurochemistry and neurophysiology of parental care and empathic concern are considered. Individual differences, including gender differences, are viewed as moderators rather than antecedents of empathic concern.
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