Meneses, Rita Wengorovius Ferro (2011)
Ph.D. thesis, University of Birmingham.
The meaning and experience of ‘empathy’ was investigated for this thesis. A mixed approach was utilized, with a strong qualitative accent. There was evidence of an ‘intuitive’ social understanding which appears to be theoretically and experientially distinct from the two prevailing models of empathic understandings (intellectual, or explicit simulation theories; and sympathetic, or implicit simulation theories). Phenomenological views on intersubjectivity were the principal interpretative framework.
The first Chapter reviews two main theoretical meanings of empathy: empathy-as-knowing, or understanding someone’s experience (empathy), and empathy-as-responding to someone’s experience (sympathy).
The second Chapter describes the study of the folk psychology stories and definitions of ‘empathy’; and their resemblance to the various theoretical meanings.
The third Chapter summarizes Edith Stein’s phenomenological views about empathy-as-knowing; and compares these views with more contemporary approaches.
The fourth Chapter describes the study of the essential qualities of the experiences of ‘insight into’ the experiences of another (resonance), alongside experiences of feeling understood by another (reception). Social understandings happened by thinking, listening, perceiving and experiencing.
The fifth Chapter describes the study where pairs of participants were invited to share their stories of a prior happy experience with each other, and then to scrutinize their recent interpersonal understandings during joint ‘cued-recall’ interviews. There were intuitive, sympathetic and imaginative social understandings.
The sixth Chapter is an overview of the overall findings associated with sympathetic, intellectual, and intuitive understandings.
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