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Empathy is not compassion: Showing evidence for differences in their neuronal and experiential signatures as well as their plasticity

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Singer,  Tania
Department Social Neuroscience, MPI for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, Max Planck Society;

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Singer, T. (2015). Empathy is not compassion: Showing evidence for differences in their neuronal and experiential signatures as well as their plasticity. Talk presented at International Convention for Psychological Science (ICPS). Amsterdam, the Netherlands. 2015-03-12 - 2015-03-14.


Cite as: http://hdl.handle.net/11858/00-001M-0000-002B-4107-E
Abstract
Recent research in the field of social neurosciences has started exploring the neuronal mechanisms underlying social emotions such as empathy and compassion. Despite the wide belief that empathy and compassion are representing a similar response to humans suffering or pain, recent results suggest that these two social emotions and motivation are associated with very different patterns of subjective affective experience and underlying neuronal networks. Whereas empathy refers to resonating with the suffering of another and by consequence is associated to negative affect and activation in a brain network shown to be crucially involved in empathy for pain paradigms, compassion in contrast comes with positive feelings of concern and warmth and underlying activity in brain areas related to reward and affiliation. Subsequent plasticity research using mental training to enhance each of these two social emotions separately has confirmed this opposite nature of empathy and compassion. Whereas training empathy may bear the risk to increase empathic distress associated to negative affect and possibly to poor health, compassion seems to help develop resilience, improve prosocial motivation and subjective wellbeing.