The term empathy is used to define a wide range of practices. Emotion scholars generally define empathy as the ability to sense other people’s emotions, attached with the ability to imagine what someone else might be thinking or feeling.
Empathy is understanding another person’s situation from their perspective. You place yourself in their shoes and feel what they’re feeling. It’s known to upsurge helping behaviors.
It seems to have deep roots in our brains and bodies, and our evolutionary history. Basic forms of empathy have been observed in our primate relatives, in dogs, and even in rats.
Empathy has been related with two different pathways in the brain, and scientists have speculated that some facets of empathy can be traced to mirror neurons, cells in the brain that fire when we observe someone else act in much the same way that they would fire if we did that action ourselves.
Having empathy doesn’t necessarily mean we’ll want to help someone in need, though it’s often the first step toward compassionate action.