Emerging Empathy: A Developmental Perspective

  • Helen Demetriou


This chapter gives a developmental perspective of empathy. Beginning with egocentrism and the early confusion between self and other, the chapter then describes research that depicts babies’ abilities to accentuate the positive with apparent baby morality and social skills. Emerging empathy is described and in particular the capacity for both feeling and understanding others’ situations, as is the variety of actions that ensue as a result of the feeling and understanding of emotions. Specific mention is afforded to the role of cognition in the developmental course of empathy as perspective-taking, and the role of affect in the developmental course of empathy as vicarious emotion. Additional mention is made of theory of mind as a special case of perspective-taking; and other classifications of emotional empathy, of sympathy, personal distress and emotional contagion. There is a section that describes the synthesis of affect and cognition, the coming together of feeling and understanding; and scenarios when empathy doesn’t emerge, of empathy imbalances from autism to psychopathy. Investigated next are the actions taken as a result of empathy, but considering also the enigmatic nature of the reasons behind empathy and the paradox that is the coexistence of altruism and egoism.


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© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Helen Demetriou
    • 1
  1. 1.Faculty of EducationUniversity of CambridgeCambridgeUK

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