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                 Empathy Definition

     Empathy is an important concept in psychology.  One of the
most important personality attributes is empathy.   A high level of
empathy may lead to significant
altruism and helping behavior.  A
lack of empathy could lead to a lack of helping behavior or rude
and insensitive comments.  It is important to define empathy and
gain an understanding of the meaning of empathy.  What is
empathy?  Below is a brief empathy definition:

Empathy is a vicarious emotional experience in which you feel
and understand what another person feels.

      Empathy is not simply perspective taking.   Although being
able to see things from another person's perspective may result in
the emotional experience of empathy, it is possible to adopt
another person's perspective without experiencing empathy.       
      If you are experiencing empathy, you feel happy when you
observe a person expressing happiness
and understand the
person's happiness.  If you are experiencing empathy, you feel sad
when you observe a person expressing sadness
and understand
the person's sadness.  Thus, the above definition suggests that
there are two elements of empathy: perspective taking
(understanding what another person feels), and vicarious emotion
(feeling what another person feels).

Empathy vs. Sympathy

      
Although sympathy and empathy are similar emotional
responses, one could feel sympathy without experiencing
empathy. Empathy, but not sympathy, may also require that one
understands the person's feelings.  Thus, if you feel sad when
another person feels sad, but you do not understand why the
person is feeling sad, the emotional response could be labeled as
sympathy rather than empathy.