ISSN 1671-3710
CN 11-4766/R

Advances in Psychological Science ›› 2016, Vol. 24 ›› Issue (1): 91-100.doi: 10.3724/SP.J.1042.2016.00091

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The effect of context on empathy

CHEN Wuying1,2; LIU Lianqi3   

  1. (1 School of Educational Science, Jiangsu Normal University, Xuzhou 221116, China)
    (2 School of Education, Shanghai Normal University, Shanghai 200235, China)
    (3 Publicity Department, Xuzhou Institute of Technology, Xuzhou 221008, China)
  • Received:2015-03-26 Online:2016-01-15 Published:2016-01-15
  • Contact: LIU Lianqi, E-mail:


This review provides a brief introduction of the research about the impact of context on empathy. Empathy is defined as the propensity to “share and understand other’s feelings during interpersonal interaction”. It includes two components of cognitive empathy and emotional empathy. Empathy appears to be a very situational cognitive process as the context has an effect on empathy. The privacy and meaning of the specific context influence the occurance or intensity of empathy. Group membership and interpersonal relationship also influence the processing of empathy. The contextual factors trigger empathic responses through automatic and controlled processing. Although much progress has been made in the field of the contextual effects on empathy, more work could be done in the future. The connotation of contextual factors is worthy to be explored in the future. We could take the perspective of people who empathize with others to confirm how the contextual effect on empathy is moderated by individual differences. Additionally, we can try to explore the mechanism of contextual effects on empathy under the background of cognitive processing.

Key words: empathy, context, group membership, interpersonal relationship, privacy