Dissociating the ability and propensity for empathy

C. Keysers, Valeria Gazzola

Research output: Contribution to journal/periodicalArticleScientificpeer-review

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Neuroimaging suggests psychopaths have reduced vicarious activations when simply witnessing pain but less so when asked to empathize. This inspired us to distinguish the ability from the propensity to empathize. We argue that (i) this ability-propensity distinction is crucial to characterizing empathy in psychiatric disorders such as psychopathy and autism, (ii) that costly helping might be best predicted by the propensity for empathy, and (iii) suggest how social neuroscientists can start exploring this distinction.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)163-6
Number of pages4
JournalTrends in Cognitive Sciences
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2014


  • Attention
  • Brain
  • Dissociative Disorders
  • Empathy
  • Humans
  • Meta-Analysis as Topic
  • Motivation
  • Neuroimaging

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