Empathy and the Disunity of Vicarious Experiences

Pierre Jacob


Abstract: What makes one individual’s experience vicarious is that it is both similar to, and caused by, another’s psychological state. Vicarious responses are mediated by the observation of another’s goal-directed or expressive action. While the evidence from cognitive neuroscience suggests the ubiquity of vicarious responses to others’ goals, intentions, sensations and emotions, the question is: is the general function of vicarious responses to understand another’s mind? In this paper, I argue for a dual view of the function of vicarious responses: while empathetic responses are other-directed, contagious responses are self-centered.

Keywords: Empathy; Vicarious Responses; Action; Self; Otherness.

L'empatia e la disunità delle esperienze vicarie

Riassunto: Quel che rende un’esperienza individuale un’esperienza vicaria è al contempo il suo essere simile a, ma anche causata da, uno stato psicologico di un altro individuo. Le risposte vicarie sono mediate dall’osservazione dell’azione di un altro nel suo essere diretta al raggiungimento di uno scopo oppure nel suo portare a espressione qualcosa. Se l’evidenza proveniente dalla neuroscienza cognitiva ci autorizza a pensare come ubiquitarie le risposte vicarie nei confronti di obiettivi, intenzioni, sensazioni ed emozioni altrui, la questione che resta aperta è la seguente: la funzione generale delle risposte vicarie è quella di comprendere la mente altrui? Nel presente lavoro intendo proporre un duplice punto di vista sulla funzione delle risposte vicarie: mentre le risposte empatiche sono rivolte verso gli altri, le risposte determinate da esperienze di contagio sono centrate sul sé.

Parole chiave: Empatia; Risposte vicarie; Azione; Sé; Alterità.

Parole chiave

Empathy; Vicarious Responses; Action; Self; Otherness.

Full Text


Riferimenti bibliografici

ANDERSON, M.L. (2010), Neural Reuse: A Fundamental Organizational Principle of the Brain. In: «Behavioral and Brain Sciences», vol. XXXIII, n. 4, pp. 245-266.

AVENANTI, A., BUETI, D., GALATI, G., AGLIOTI, S. (2005), Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation Highlights the Sensorimotor Side of Empathy for Pain. In: «Nature Neuroscience», vol. VIII, n. 7, pp. 955-960.

AVENANTI, A., MINIO-PALUELLO, I., BUFALARI, I., AGLIOTI, S. (2006), Stimulus-driven Modulation of Motor-evoked Potentials During Observation of Others’ Pain. In: «Neuroimage», vol. XXXII, n. 1, pp. 316-324.

AVENANTI, A., MINIO-PALUELLO, I., SFORZA, A., AGLIOTI, S. (2009), Freezing or Escaping? Opposite Modulations of Empathic Reactivity to the Pain of Others. In: «Cortex», vol. XLV, n. 9, pp. 1072-1077.

BANISSY, M.J., WARD, J. (2007), Mirror-touch Synaesthesia is Linked with Empathy. In: «Nature Neuroscience», vol. X, n. 7, pp. 815-816.

BLAKEMORE, S.-J., BRISTOW, B., BIRD, G., FRITH, C., WARD, J. (2005), Somatosensory Activations During the Observation of Touch and a Case of Vision-touch Synaesthesia. In: «Brain», vol. CXXVIII, n. 7, pp. 1571-1583.

BOTVINICK, M., JHAB, A.P., BYLSMAA, L.M., FABIAN, F.A., SOLOMON, P.E., PRKACHIN, K.M. (2005), Viewing Facial Expressions of Pain Engages Cortical Areas Involved in the Direct Experience of Pain. In: «Neuroimage», vol. XXV, n.1, pp. 312-319.

CALDER, A.J., KEANE, J., MANES, F., ANTOUN, N., YOUNG, A.W. (2000), Impaired Recognition and Experience of Disgust Following Brain Injury. In: «Nature Reviews Neuroscience», vol. III, n. 11, pp. 1077-1078.

CHENG, Y., LIN, C.P., LIU, H.L., HSU, Y.H., LIM, K.E., HUNG, D., DECETY, J. (2007), Expertise Modulates the Perception of Pain in Others. In: «Current Biology», vol. XVII, n. 19, pp. 1708-1713.

CRAIGHERO, L., METTA, G., SANDINI, G., FADIGA, L. (2007), The Mirror-neurons System: Data and Models. In: «Progress in Brain Research», vol. CLXIV, pp. 39-59.

CSIBRA, G. (2007), Action Mirroring and Action Understanding: An Alternative Account. In: P. HAGGARD, Y. ROSSETTI, M. KAWATO (eds.), Sensorimotor Foundations of Higher Cognition, Attention and Performance, Oxford University Press, New York, pp. 435-480.

DAVIS, K.D. (2000), The Neural Circuitry of Pain as Explored with Functional MRI. In: «Neurological Research», vol. XXII, n. 3, pp. 313-317.

DE VIGNEMONT, F. (2009), Drawing the Boundary Between Low-level and High-level Mindreading. In: «Philosophical Studies», vol. CXLIV, n. 3, pp. 457-466.

DE VIGNEMONT, F., JACOB, P. (2012), What Is It like to Feel Another’s Pain?. In: «Philosophy of Science», vol. LXXIX, n. 2, pp. 295-316.

EBISCH, S.J.H., PERRUCCI, M.G., FERRETTI, A., DEL GRATTA, C., ROMANI, G.L., GALLESE, V. (2008), The Sense of Touch: Embodied Simulation in a Visuotactile Mirroring Mechanism for Observed Animate or Inanimate Touch. In: «Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience», vol. XX, n. 9, pp. 1611-1623.

GALLAGHER, S. (2012), In Defense of Phenomenological Approaches to Social Cognition: Interacting with the Critics. In: «Review of Philosophy and Psychology», vol. III, n. 2, pp. 187-212.

GALLESE, V. (2001), The “Shared Manifold” Hypothesis: From Mirror Neurons to Empathy. In: «Journal of Consciousness Studies», vol. VIII; n. 5-7, pp. 33-50.

GALLESE, V. (2003), A Neuroscientific Grasp of Concepts: From Control to Representation. In: «Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London, B», vol. CCCLVIII, n. 1435, pp. 1231-1240.

GALLESE, V. (2005), Embodied Simulation: From Neurons to Phenomenal Experience. In: «Phenomenology and Cognitive Science», vol. IV, n. 1, pp. 23-48.

GALLESE, V. (2007), Before Hurley and Below “Theory of Mind’: Embodied Simulation and the Neural Correlates of Social Cognition. In: «Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society, B», vol. CCCLXII, n. 1480, pp. 659-669.

GALLESE, V. (2010), Embodied Simulation and Its Role in Intersubjectivity. In: T. FUCHS, H.C. SATTEL, P. HENNINGSEN (eds.), The Embodied Self: Dimensions, Coherence and Disorders, Schattauer, Stuttgart, pp. 78-92.

GALLESE, V., GOLDMAN, A.I. (1998), Mirror Neurons and the Simulation Theory of Mind-reading. In: «Trends in Cognitive Sciences», vol. II, n. 12, p. 493-501.

GALLESE, V., KEYSERS, C., RIZZOLATTI, G. (2004), A Unifying View of the Basis of Social Cognition. In: «Trends in Cognitive Sciences», vol. VIII, n. 9, pp. 396-403.

GALLESE, V., SINIGAGLIA, C. (2011), What is so Special about Embodied Simulation?. In: «Trends in Cognitive Sciences», vol. XV, n. 11, pp. 512-519.

GOLDMAN, A.I. (2006), Simulating Minds: The Philosophy, Psychology, and Neuroscience of Mindreading, Oxford University Press, Oxford.

GOLDMAN, A.I. (2008), Hurley on Simulation. In: «Philosophy and Phenomenological Research», vol. LXXVII, n. 3, pp. 775-788.

GOLDMAN, A.I. (2009), Mirroring, Mindreading, and Simulation. In: J.A. PINEDA (ed.), Mirror Neuron Systems: The Role of Mirroring Processes in Social Cognition, Humana Press, New York, pp. 311-330.

GOLDMAN, A.I. (2009), Mirroring, Simulating, and Mindreading. In: «Mind and Language», vol. XXIV, n. 2, pp. 235-252.

GOLDMAN, A.I. (2011), Two Routes to Empathy: Insights from Cognitive Neuroscience. In: A. COPLAN, P. GOLDIE (eds.), Empathy: Philosophical and Psychological Perspectives. Oxford University Press, Oxford, pp. 31-44.

GOLDMAN, A.I. (2012), A Moderate Approach to Embodied Cognitive Science. In: «Review of Philosophy and Psychology», vol. III, n. 1, pp. 71-88.

GOLDMAN, A.I., DE VIGNEMONT, F. (2009), Is Social Cognition Embodied?. In: «Trends in Cognitive Sciences», vol. XIII, n. 4, pp. 154-159.

GORDON, R.M. (1986), Folk Psychology as Simulation. In: «Mind and Language», vol. I, n. 2, pp. 158-171.

GORDON, R.M. (1995), Simulation Without Introspection or Inference from Me to You. In: M. DAVIES, T. STONE (eds.), Mental Simulation: Evaluations and Applications, Blackwell, Oxford, pp. 53-67.

GORDON, R.M. (1996), “Radical” Simulationism. In: P. CARRUTHERS, P.K. SMITH (eds), Theories of Theories of Mind, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp. 11-21.

HURLEY, S. (2008), Understanding Simulation. In: «Philosophy and Phenomenological Research», vol. LXXVII, n. 3, pp. 755-774.

JACKSON, P.L., MELTZOFF, A.N., DECETY, J. (2005), How do we Perceive the Pain of Others? A Window into the Neural Processes Involved in Empathy. In: «Neuroimage», vol. XXIV, n. 5, pp. 771-779.

JACOB, P. (2008), What do Mirror Neuron Contribute to Social Cognition?. In: «Mind and Language», vol. XXIII, n. 2, pp. 190-223.

JACOB, P. (2009), The Tuning-fork Model of Social Cognition: A Critique. In: «Consciousness and Cognition», vol. XVIII, n. 1, pp. 229-243.

JACOB, P. (2011), The Direct-perception Model of Empathy: A Critique. In: «Review of Philosophy and Psychology», vol. II, n. 3, pp. 519-540.

JACOB, P. (2013), How from Action-mirroring to Intention-ascription. In: «Consciousness and Cognition», vol. XXII, n. 3, pp. 1132-1141.

KEYSERS, C., GAZZOLA, V. (2009), Expanding the Mirror: Vicarious Activity for Actions, Emotions, and Sensations. In «Current Opinion in Neurobiology», vol. XIX, n. 6, pp. 666-671.

KEYSERS, C., GAZZOLA, V. (in press), The Vicarious Brain.

KEYSERS, C., HAAS, J.K., GAZZOLA, V. (2010), Somatosensation in Social Perception. In: «Nature Reviews Neuroscience», vol. XI, n. 6, pp. 417-428.

KEYSERS, C., WICKER, B., GAZZOLA, V., ANTON, J.-L., FOGASSI, L., GALLESE, V. (2004), A Touching Sight: SII/PV Activation During the Observation and Experience of Touch. In: «Neuron», vol. XLII, n. 2, pp. 335-346.

KOHLER, E., KEYSERS, C., UMILTÀ, M.A., FOGASSI, L., GALLESE, V., RIZZOLATTI, G. (2002), Hearing Sounds, Understanding Actions: Action Representation in Mirror Neurons. In: «Science», vol. CCXCVII, n. 5582, pp. 846-848.

LAMM, C., MELTZOFF, A.N., DECETY, J. (2010), How do we Empathize with Someone who is not Like us? A Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging Study. In: «Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience», vol. XXII, n. 2, pp. 362-376.

LAMM, C., NUSBAUM, H.C., MELTZOFF, A.N., DECETY, J. (2007), What are you Feeling? Using Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging to Assess the Modulation of Sensory and Affective Responses During Empathy for Pain. In: «PLoS One», vol. II, n. 12, e1292.

MEINI, C., PATERNOSTER, A. (2012), Mirror neurons as a conceptual mechanism?. In: «Mind & Society», vol. XI, n. 2, pp. 183-201.

NEWMAN-NORLUND, R.D., VAN SCHIE, H.T., VAN ZUIJLEN, A.M., BEKKERING, H. (2007), The Mirror Neuron System is More Active During Complementary Compared with Imitative Action. In: «Nature Neuroscience», vol. X, n. 7, pp. 817-818.

OOSTERHOF, N.N., TIPPER, S.P., DOWNING, P.E. (2013), Crossmodal and Action-specific: Neuroimaging the Human Mirror Neuron System. In: «Trends in Cognitive Sciences», vol. XVII, n. 7, pp. 311-318.

RIZZOLATTI, G., FADIGA, L., GALLESE, V., FOGASSI, L. (1996), Premotor Cortex and the Recognition of Motor Actions. In: «Cognitive Brain Research», vol. III, n. 2, pp. 131-141.

RIZZOLATTI, G., FOGASSI, L., GALLESE, V. (2000), Cortical Mechanisms Subserving Object Grasping and Action Recognition: A New View of the Cortical Motor Functions. In: M. GAZZANIGA (ed.), The New Cognitive Neuroscience, The MIT Press, Cambridge (MA), pp. 539-552.

RIZZOLATTI, G., FOGASSI, L., GALLESE, V. (2001), Neurophysiological Mechanisms Underlying the Understanding and Imitation of Action. In: «Nature Reviews Neuroscience», vol. II, n. 9, pp. 661-670.

RIZZOLATTI, G., FOGASSI, L., GALLESE, V. (2004), Cortical Mechanisms Subserving Object Grasping, Action Understanding, and Imitation. In: M. GAZZANIGA (ed.), The Cognitive Neurosciences III, The MIT Press, Cambridge (MA), pp. 427-440.

RIZZOLATTI, G., SINIGAGLIA, C. (2010), The Functional Role of the Parieto-frontal Mirror Circuit: Interpretations and Misinterpretations. In: «Nature Reviews Neuroscience», vol. XI, n. 4, pp. 264-274.

SHEPERD, S.V., KLEIN, J.T., DEANER, R.O., PLATT, M.L. (2009), Mirroring of Attention by Neurons in Macaque Parietal Cortex. In: «PNAS», vol. CVI, n. 23, pp. 9489-9494.

SINGER, T., LAMM, C. (2009), The Social Neuroscience of Empathy. In: «Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences», vol. MCLVI, n. 1, pp. 81-96.

SINGER, T., SEYMOUR, B., O’DOHERTY, J., KAUBE, H., DOLAN, R., FRITH, C. (2004), Empathy for Pain Involves the Affective but not Sensory Components of Pain. In: «Science», vol. CCCIII, n. 5661, pp. 1157-1162.

SINGER, T., SEYMOUR, B., O’DOHERTY, J., STEPHAN, K., DOLAN, R., FRITH, C. (2006), Empathic Neural Responses are Modulated by the Perceived Fairness of Others. In: «Nature», vol. CDXXXIX, n. 7075, pp. 466-469.

SMITH, J. (2012), What is Empathy for?, Collective Intentionality VIII, University of Manchester, August 31th.

STUEBER, K. (2008), Empathy. In: E.N. ZALTA (ed.), Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Stanford University, Stanford (CA) .

SUSSKIND, J.M., LEE, D.H., CUSI, A., FEIMAN, R., GRABSKI, W., ANDERSON, A.K. (2008), Expressing Fear Enhances Sensory Acquisition. In: «Nature Neuroscience», vol. XI, n. 7, pp. 843-850.

TOMASELLO, M., CARPENTER, M., CALL, J., BEHNE, T., MOLL, H. (2005), Understanding and Sharing Intentions: The Origins of Cultural Cognition. In: «Behavioral and Brain Sciences», vol. XXVIII, n. 5, pp. 675-691.

WICKER, B., KEYSERS, C., PLAILLY, J., ROYET, J.-P., GALLESE, V., RIZZOLATTI, G. (2003), Both of us Disgusted in my Insula: The Common Neural Basis of Seeing and Feeling Disgust. In: «Neuron», vol. XL, n. 3, pp. 655-664.

WOOD, R., GALLESE, V., CATTANEO, L. (2010), Visuotactile Empathy within the Primary Somatosensory Cortex Revealed by Short-latency Afferent Inhibition. In: «Neuroscience Letters», vol. CDLXXIII, n. 1, pp. 28-31.

ZAHAVI, D. (2011), Empathy and Direct Social Perception: A Phenomenological Proposal. In: «Review of Philosophy and Psychology», vol. II, n. 3, pp. 541-558.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.4453/rifp.2015.0002

Copyright (c) 2015 Pierre Jacob

URLdella licenza: creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0

Rivista internazionale di Filosofia e Psicologia - ISSN: 2039-4667 (print) - E-ISSN: 2239-2629 (online)

Registrazione al Tribunale di Milano n. 634 del 26-11-2010 - Direttore Responsabile: Aurelia Delfino

Web provider Aruba spa - Loc. Palazzetto, 4 - 52011 Bibbiena (AR) - P.IVA 01573850516 - C.F. e R.I./AR 04552920482

Licenza Creative Commons
Dove non diversamente specificato, i contenuti di Rivista Internazionale di Filosofia e Psicologia sono distribuiti con Licenza Creative Commons Attribuzione 4.0 Internazionale.