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Empathy: Cognitive and Affective

Posted Oct 20 2010 6:15am

Empathy is defined as the ability to perceive someone else's experience. Dr. Simon Baron-Cohen, the brother of actor Sasha, is an avid researcher on empathy and reports that for the most part, women demonstrate empathy to a greater degree than do men.

But did you know there are two kinds of empathy?

Cognitive empathy is the ability to perceive what another person is thinking. "She must be telling herself this was a mistake."

Affective empathy is the ability to sense what another person is emotionally experiencing. "She must be feeling upset about this mistake."

Of course, there's much more to the process of empathy. But should you want to stretch your ability to feel for another person try these tips:

1) Ask yourself what must this person be thinking? This will broaden your cognitive empathy.

2) Same goes for affective empathy - imagine what feelings and emotions might be stirring within another person.

3) If it's hard for you to "be in another person's shoes", ask yourself what YOU might be thinking or feeling if you were in a similar situation.

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