Computational empathy

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Computational empathy is a multidisciplinary endeavour that is located at the intersection of the fields of artificial intelligence, cognitive psychology, social psychology and philosophy. The goal of computational empathy is to model, simulate and replicate human empathy using a computer.

Empathy is the capacity to imagine and understand what another person is experiencing from within their frame of reference. Types of empathy include cognitive empathy, emotional empathy and somatic empathy. Cognitive empathy is the ability to take on another person's perspective. Emotional empathy is feeling another person's pain or pleasure. Somatic empathy involves physical reactions in response to someone else's emotions. Functions of empathy are also studied such as affective empathy which involves using cognitive and emotional empathy to make an appropriate response.

Solving the problem of computational empathy may be key to forming meaningful, evolving relationships between humans and robots.

History[edit | edit source]

Use over time for the word "empathy".

It is worth noting that empathy is a modern concept that only recently emerged in the English language a century ago and did not gain traction until 1952, and its meaning has continually changed over time. The word "empathy" came into being as a translation for the German psychological term "Einfühlung", literally meaning "feeling into". The word was first used in English by psychologist Edward B. Titchener in 1909.[1] The term "Einfühlung" was first used by Robert Vischer, a German philosopher, in 1873, which in turn was derived from the German verb “einfühlen”, which means "to feel into". The original meaning of empathy was not a means to feel someone else's emotions but to enliven an object or to project one's own imagined feelings onto the world.

In 1948, Rosalind Dymond conducted some tests measuring interpersonal empathy.[2] She deliberately rejected empathy's early meaning of imaginative projection, and instead emphasized interpersonal connection as the core of the concept. In experimental studies that followed psychologists began to differentiate "true" empathy as correctly predicting another's response, from what they called "projection", misinterpreting what is "inside" as coming from "outside". Dymond's revised definition of empathy then appeared in her 1952 paper as: "the imaginative and accurate transposing of oneself into the thinking, feeling and acting of another."[3]

Before empathy came into being the closest concept in English was sympathy, defined as a "feeling corresponding to that which another feels; the quality of being affected by the affection of another, with feelings correspondent in kind, if not in degree,"[4] and was synonymous with "pity; fellow-feeling; compassion; commiseration; tenderness." Fellow-feeling meaning "a like feeling" and compassion meaning "literally, suffering with another; a sensation of sorrow excited by the distress or misfortunes of another; pity; commiseration." A clear distinction was made that internal experiences of external reality were solely one's own creation.

References[edit | edit source]

  1. Stueber, Karsten, "Empathy", The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Fall 2019 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.)
  2. Rosalind Dymond. (1948). A preliminary investigation of the relation of insight and empathy. Journal of Consulting Psychology 2, 228-233.
  3. R. F. Dymond, Anne Hughes, & Virginia Raabe. (1952). Measurable changes in empathy with age. Journal of Consulting Psychology 16, 202-206, 202.
  4. Noah Webster. (1913). Webster's Unabridged Dictionary.