Different Perspectives on Empathy

Accident and Emergency Physician Dr Jock McKeen has spent a long time thinking about empathy. Empathy is the process of understanding another person’s mind. Here Dr McKeen discusses his profound insights which show that empathy is a multifaceted phenomenon which changes through the lifespan.

Index: There are indices for the TAWOP site here and here Twitter: You can follow ‘The Amazing World of Psychiatry’ Twitter by clicking on this link. Podcast: You can listen to this post on Odiogo by clicking on this link (there may be a small delay between publishing of the blog article and the availability of the podcast). It is available for a limited period. TAWOP Channel: You can follow the TAWOP Channel on YouTube by clicking on this link. Responses: If you have any comments, you can leave them below or alternatively e-mail justinmarley17@yahoo.co.uk. Disclaimer: The comments made here represent the opinions of the author and do not represent the profession or any body/organisation. The comments made here are not meant as a source of medical advice and those seeking medical advice are advised to consult with their own doctor. The author is not responsible for the contents of any external sites that are linked to in this blog.


  1. This is not at all what I know about empathy. Psychologists, in their well known common sense, use to give a strange interpretation of this particular concept. What I know about empathy comes from the study of Heidegger and the recent developments on mirror neurons. It’s not something related to development of higher and more sophisticated ways of understanding the other person through the long process of development. A new born child is as empathic as me or you, and that’s just because we all share the same condition of human being, made exactly how we are made…it’s constitutive of our nature! Sympathy, comprehension, compassion is then another story..that comes with experience..


  2. Hi Thanks for the comments – sure sympathy and empathy are completely separate. There is evidence that empathy changes through the lifespan. The doll test is the test of empathy used for autism and this would typically be passed by children at a certain age. In frontotemporal Dementia empathy can be affected whilst other research shows that there is a peak empathy which is in the mid fifties but which differs between the genders Regards Justin


  3. I’ve been thinking, so far, about the doll test.
    Sally Anne test is used for valuate theory of mind in children, I know.
    But, is theory of mind the same construct of empathy? Is empathy a cognitive process?! Is there a difference between comprehension (in existential terms: the original openness of Dasein – the being-tuned) and explanation (cognitive process)?
    I’m obsessed about details.. By the way I understand simplifications


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