Empathy as Special Form of Motor Skill That Can Be Trained

In Georgina Barton & Susanne Garvis (eds.), Compassion and Empathy in Educational Contexts. Springer Verlag (2019)
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Traditionally, empathy is conceived of as a cognitive function that governs how people think during social interactions, and is considered as largely impervious to change. However, developments in psychology and neuroscience show that empathy is grounded in neural substrates of emotionally communicative behaviour and so is learned through imitation and other forms of cultural learning. This also means that abnormal patterns of empathic function can develop through adverse life experiences, or that empathy may fail to develop in young people with neurodevelopmental disorders. Nevertheless, by focussing on empathy as a quality of social interaction and affective expression in the here and now, and by appreciating that it is as a special form of sensorimotor skill, pathways to training and fostering better development of empathy can be identified.



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Justin Williams
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