Cognitive Empathy

In Heidi L. Maibom (ed.), The Routledge Handbook of Philosophy of Empathy. Routledge Press. pp. 13-21 (2017)
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We have various strategies available to us for understanding another person’s state of mind. Cognitive empathy may be achieved by mental simulation, i.e. by imagining yourself in another’s situation and figuring out what you would think and feel in that situation. Alternatively, you could consider all the relevant information about the person’s situation and folk psychology and draw a sophisticated inference to the best explanation of that person’s perspective. In this chapter, I examine the conditions under which we are likely to use these two familiar strategies for cognitive empathy and when they are likely to be effective. In addition, I discuss a third underexplored pattern of reasoning in understanding others. Self-serving goals, such as anxiety reduction, self-esteem, and confirmation of one’s worldview, distort cognitive empathy. I consider these different strategies in light of hybrid theories of cognitive empathy.

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Shannon Spaulding
Oklahoma State University


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