Somatic markers and empathy

One kind of empathy is ‘automatic’ – it happens when we see someone in pain or happy. We respond despite ourselves.

An intriguing possible way to explain the connection is through somatic markers, as hypothesied by Damasio. Somatic markers are associations between particular situations or experiences and the affects or emotions they activate. Through repeated experience, somatic markers come to serve as mental processing shortcuts; the act of imagining, rather than experiencing, a similar situation reactivates the somatic marker response and its associated emotions, and influences behaviour (Damasio, 1999). In empathy, if I imagine your experience, my somatic markers (seem likely to) come into play and activate the emotions I have come to associate with that experience.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: