Social Neuroscience of Empathy

Tania Singer and Jean Decety

in The Oxford Handbook of Social Neuroscience

Published in print September 2011 | ISBN: 9780195342161
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Library of Psychology

Social Neuroscience of Empathy

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  • Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Social Psychology



This chapter discusses the study of empathy in the field of social neuroscience. It also considers the role of action understanding and cognitive perspective-taking in empathic understanding. The first part of the chapter discusses different definitions of empathy, thereby comparing the construct of empathy to related constructs, such as compassion, emotion contagion, empathic concern, sympathy, cognitive perspective taking, and Theory of Mind. The second part reports evidence from social neuroscience studies on empathy and the role of the mirror neuron for empathy, the modulation of empathic brain responses, and empathy deficits in psychopathology.

Keywords: empathy; social neuroscience; action understanding; compassion; emotion contagion; empathic concern; sympathy; Theory of Mind; mirror neuron

Article.  10932 words. 

Subjects: Psychology ; Cognitive Neuroscience ; Social Psychology

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