ISSN 1671-3710
CN 11-4766/R

Advances in Psychological Science ›› 2016, Vol. 24 ›› Issue (9): 1368-1376.doi: 10.3724/SP.J.1042.2016.01368

• Regular Articles • Previous Articles     Next Articles

The neurobiological underpinnings of trait empathy

YUE Tong; HUANG Xiting   

  1. (Research Center for Psychology and Social Development, Southwest University; School of Psychology, Southwest University, Chongqing 400715, China)
  • Received:2015-11-20 Online:2016-09-15 Published:2016-09-15
  • Contact: HUANG Xiting, E-mail:


Individual differences in trait empathy is one of the important research topics in psychology. In recent years, an increasing number of studies have been done to reveal the neurobiological underpinnings of trait empathy. As these studies found out, both trait emotional empathy and trait cognitive empathy show individual differences in the brain’s empathic responses, brain structures and resting-state functional connectivity. Such findings imply that trait empathy is closely related with imitative ability, emotional processing capacity and emotion understanding level. Moreover, with several types of genes related to it, trait empathy is also highly inheritable. Further studies are needed to extend the understanding of the structure of empathy, explore the interaction of environment and gene in shaping individual differences in trait empathy, and apply theoretical findings to the clinical practice of training and improving empathy ability.

Key words: trait empathy, brain mechanism, brain structure, resting-state, genetics