Abstract: The article discusses the issue of empathy, the ability to understand and relate to other people’s emotions, and its fundamental role in human interaction. It offers a historical review on different writings and attempts to scientifically define and research the human capacity of empathy. Scientists make a distinction between the cognitive and the emotional aspect of empathy. A functional model of empathy based on social-neuroscience perspective is also presented. It plays emphasis on a third component, i.e. the ability to monitor and regulate cognitive and emotional processes. Empathy is regarded as an innate trait but at the same time it should be nourished and cultivated. Within human development, it is observed that children at the age of two normally begin to engage in empathic behaviour when they show emotional responses that are congruent with the emotional states of people around them. Relatedness is amongst the most important feelings that adults should support in their children in order to provide and cultivate satisfactory experiences in them. Empathy is also explored in the context of raised awareness of multiculturalism in the 21st century.
Keywords: Empathy, communication, intersubjectivity, emotional regulatory processes, relatedness.
Rhetoric and Communications E-journal, Issue 4, April 2012, http://rhetoric.bg/, ISSN 1314-4464