Empathy for pain and its modulating factors
Sammanfattning: The present thesis deals with the concept of empathy for pain, its neurobiological underpinnings and modulations of the phenomenon. Empathy for pain is understood as the empathic response that occurs when recognising another in pain and entails at least the affective processes of actually felt pain in oneself. Cortical areas of importance for empathy for pain are the anterior insula and anterior cingulate cortex. Moreover, the phenomenon is correlated with high levels of empathy, as established by behavioural self-reports. Further, empathy for pain has been shown to be highly susceptible to modulatory factors giving rise to changes in the empathic response. Perceived fairness, perspective taking, intent and out-groups are all factors that can evoke change in the subsequent empathy for pain responses in humans. These modulatory factors provide insight into in- and out-group mechanisms. Cognitive strategies can regulate a diminished empathy for pain response, although further research is needed on how to cultivate and strengthen our ability to have empathy for another’s pain.
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