ISSN 1671-3710
CN 11-4766/R

心理科学进展 ›› 2021, Vol. 29 ›› Issue (8): 1420-1429.doi: 10.3724/SP.J.1042.2021.01420

• 研究前沿 • 上一篇    下一篇


曹思琪1,2, 刘勋1,2(), 伍海燕3()   

  1. 1中国科学院心理研究所行为科学重点实验室, 北京 100101
    2中国科学院大学心理学系, 北京 100049
    3澳门大学认知与脑科学研究中心, 澳门大学心理系, 澳门 999078
  • 收稿日期:2020-08-29 发布日期:2021-06-25
  • 通讯作者: 刘勋,伍海燕;
  • 基金资助:

Controllable empathy? The adjustability of empathy from a top-down view

CAO Si-Qi1,2, LIU Xun1,2(), WU Hai-Yan3()   

  1. 1CAS Key Laboratory of Behavioral Science, Institute of Psychology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100101, China
    2Department of Psychology, University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100049, China
    3Center for Cognition and Brain Sciences, Department of Psychology, University of Macau, Macau 999078, China
  • Received:2020-08-29 Published:2021-06-25
  • Contact: LIU Xun,WU Hai-Yan;


以往研究表明共情的特点包括自动化与情境依赖性。但是, 有关共情的理论模型与潜在神经机制仍存有争议。为更好地适应现实需求, 研究重点从共情的结构和功能角度逐渐向塑造和调节共情发展。近年来, 有研究者提出自上而下的心理过程与共情调节有关, 特别是共情的目标表征形式, 以及目标的价值权衡。因此, 考虑到共情的目标导向性对于共情的内部构建与外部表现形式的影响, 建议未来研究考虑从自上而下视角考察共情的可调节性。

关键词: 自上而下, 目标表征, 趋避动机, 调节共情


Empathy is our general ability to empathize with the emotional states of others. Studies have shown that empathy features automation and contextual dependence. However, the theoretical models and underlying neural mechanisms about empathy remain controversial. To meet real-world demands, researchers gradually shift their focus on the structure and function to the adjustability of empathy. Recently, it is indicated that the top-down psychological processes can play an important role in the adjustability of empathy, especially the goal of empathy and how to represent the value of the goal. A growing number of researchers recognize that empathy consists of three distinct but related processes (bottom-up emotional processes, top-down cognitive processes, and behavioral processes):1) affective empathy/experience sharing: the degree to which the emotional state matches the state of another; 2) cognitive empathy/mentalization/emotion identification: the mentalizing ability to recognize the emotional states of others; 3) empathic concern: internal motivation to improve the state of others. In recent years, some researchers have proposed that the top-down psychological process is related to the regulation of empathy, especially the representation of goals and the value trade-off between different goals significantly affect the generation and regulation of empathy. The forms of goal representation include: 1) high- and low-level goal. On the one hand, to prevent lower-level outcomes such as physical and mental fatigue, people tend to avoid empathizing with others. On the other hand, people are more likely to empathize with others when they pursue higher-level goals and positive outcomes such as social prestige. 2) long- and short-term goal. If empathy is regarded as a decision-making process with the attribute of time, time influences the manifestation of individual empathy by influencing the value representation of the goal in empathy. 3) Assuming dimensions of social meaningfulness. When empathizing with others, people may have a tendency toward an imaginary dimension that is regarded as socially meaningful, on which they are more likely to consider higher-level, long-term goals (morality, responsibility and obligation, self-concept, etc.) when making decisions. From the perspective of motivation, empathic motivation is a goal-oriented internal force that drives people towards or away from social connections. The two main types of goal-oriented empathic motivation include the opposite types of empathic motivation: approach motivation (altruism) and the avoidance motivation (apathy). The researchers show that targeted interventions can change the preferences and degrees of empathy. To sum up,the adjustability of empathy is discussed from a top-down perspective and the plasticity of empathy is emphasized. Studying empathy from the perspective of goal and motivation is crucial to understand the internal construction mechanism and external manifestation of empathy. Given goal influences the internal construction and external manifestation of empathy, future research should investigate empathy adjustability from a top-down perspective. In particular, the representation of goals and the trade-off between costs and benefits in goal-oriented empathy.

Key words: top-down, goal representation, approach/avoidance motivation, empathy adjustability