Tag Archives: Feeling

How culture shapes different types of empathy


It is useful to differentiate between sympathy and empathy as the basis to also understand better how culture itself (amongst other factors) shapes cultural empathy. This is important also to define and assess more subtle aspects of empathy as it becomes increasingly imperative in education and disciplines such as global talent management.

Empathy (like sympathy and compassion) is related to human emotions as a reaction to other individuals’ plights [1]. Empathy is considered crucial in motivating pro-social attitudes and actions as well as moral development and involves research from various interdependent fields such as biology, psychology, anthropology, and philosophy (Mason & Bartal, 2010). Science is differentiating affective empathy, i.e., the experience of others’ emotional state, and cognitive empathy, i.e., the apprehension of others’ emotions [3].

Empathy as a concept conflates with similar ideas like ‘sympathy’ [4]. A casual comparison describes sympathy as “to feel with,” while empathy involves “to feel for” others. More specifically, there is no need for a person experiencing sympathy to simulate the other’s state of mind as would be required for practicing empathy [5]. Batson (1991) defined empathy as a category of responses to another “that are more other-focused than self-focused, including feelings of sympathy, compassion, tenderness, and the like” ([6] p. 86).

Because the emotion of empathy determines, besides reasoning, how ethical decisions are made, it is vital to acknowledge its key role in human development and professions, such as, for example, journalism, which strongly influences how people related to empathy [7]. Despite increased globalization and the ubiquitous of information about others’ plight, a tendency of ‘sympathy-without-empathy’ represents the reality of globalized individualism [8]. Also, how the ability of empathy is individually employed should be assessed as well, as empathy can be for the good or the bad, e.g., not only for help, but for manipulation, bullying, and the exertion of cruelty where it harms others most [9].

Culture shapes how empathy is experienced and communicated as it is true for any emotions, which always are impacted by a culture’s particular social intricacies. Hence, the expression of sympathy and empathy require a language that is sensitive to support the maintenance of both the sender’s own and the receiver’s identity respectfully [10]. For example, it is essential to understand how cultural background moderates empathy. For example, people in East Asian collectivist societies that emphasize interpersonal harmony, tend to show increased empathic accuracy (while the level of empathic concern tends to be lower though) compared to more individualist cultures such as the UK [11]. The communication of distress, as well as sympathy responses, are both stronger when involving narratives of somatic experiences (e.g., fatigue) as compared to cognitive symptoms (e.g., negative thoughts), but only among Korean and not US study participants [12]. In another study, American individuals were found to focus less on negative aspects respectively avoid more negative affect compared to Germans when forming sympathy for other’s negative experience and suffering [13]. Russian people have, as a consequence of how the culture frames empathy, a more apparent preference for experiencing empathy more exclusively for people whom they know personally [1].

Education on cross-cultural empathy for global talent management is essential. However, even within any one nation socio-cultural differences might suggest a need for cosmopolitan education to develop empathy between all co-citizens [14]. The same might, of course, be true for between the employees in a single country too.


[1] Gladkova, A. (2010). Sympathy, compassion, and empathy in English and Russian: A linguistic and cultural analysis. Culture And Psychology, 16(2), 267-285. doi:10.1177/1354067X10361396

[2] Mason, P., & Bartal, I. B. (2010). How the social brain experiences empathy: Summary of a gathering. Social Neuroscience, 5(2), 252-256. doi:10.1080/17470911003589085

[3] Wang, Y., Wen, Z., Fu, Y., & Zheng, L. (2017). Psychometric properties of a Chinese version of the Measure of Empathy and Sympathy. Personality & Individual Differences, 119168-174. doi:10.1016/j.paid.2017.07.019

[4] Haase, F. (2012). Empathy vs. Evidence in Rhetorical Speech: Contrastive Cultural Studies in ‘Empathy’ as Framework of Speech Communication and Its Tradition in Cultural History. Ethos: Felsefe Ve Toplumsal Bilimlerde Diyaloglar (Dialogues In Philosophy And Social Sciences), 5(2), 16-35.

[5] Halpern, F. (2018). Closeness Through Unreliability: Sympathy, Empathy, and Ethics in Narrative Communication. Narrative, 26(2), 125-145.

[6] Batson, C. D. (1991). The altruism question: Towards a social social– psychological answer. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.

[7] King, C. (2017). ‘Gays Are the New Jews’: Homophobic Representations in African Media versus Twitterverse Empathy. At The Interface / Probing The Boundaries, (92), 193-216. doi:10.1163/9789004360846_010

[8] James, P., & Scerri, A. (2012). Globalizing Consumption and the Deferral of a Politics of Consequence. Globalizations, 9(2), 225-240. doi:10.1080/14747731.2012.658249

[9] Fairbairn, G. J. (2017). Reflecting On Empathy. At The Interface / Probing The Boundaries, (92), 61-83. doi:10.1163/9789004360846_005

[10] Sheikhan, S. A. (2017). Rapport Management toward Expressing Sympathy in Persian. Linguistik Online, 83(4), 101-114. doi:10.13092/lo.83.378

[11] Atkins, D., Uskul, A. K., & Cooper, N. R. (2016). Culture shapes empathic responses to physical and social pain. Emotion, 16(5), 587-601. doi:10.1037/emo0000162

[12] Choi, E. )., Chentsova-Dutton, Y. )., & Parrott, W. ). (2016). The effectiveness of somatization in communicating distress in Korean and American cultural contexts. Frontiers In Psychology, 7(MAR), doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2016.00383

[13] Koopmann-Holm, B., & Tsai, J. L. (2014). Focusing on the negative: Cultural differences in expressions of sympathy. Journal Of Personality And Social Psychology, 107(6), 1092-1115. doi:10.1037/a0037684

[14] Culp, J. (2018). Internationalizing Nussbaum’s model of cosmopolitan democratic education. Ethics & Education, 13(2), 172-190. doi:10.1080/17449642.2018.1439308

Too Much and “Good” or “Bad” Emotional Intelligence / Empathy


High levels of Emotional Intelligence (EI) are generally associated with high performance and success. However, there might also be a kind of emotional overthinking with adverse effects on work performance. And, EI is not in itself a “good” or a “bad” personality characteristic.

Continue reading Too Much and “Good” or “Bad” Emotional Intelligence / Empathy

The importance of intuition


What are the “hidden” aspects, the unconscious parts of personalities’ mental functioning that is determining human behavior? While Freud is using the term ‘drive,’ ‘instinct’ and ‘intuition’ (more casually also ‘gut feeling’) are rather popular expressions too, while ‘instinct’ may be seen as a more inherent, and ‘intuition’ as a more experience based type of unconscious mental activity (Sun & Wilson, 2014). Intuition may be substantial for the humanist approach as well, as there is an expectation that the self-actualization tendency is at work in unconscious situations such as creative work, euphoria, and intuition (Gordon, 2012).

Ancient definition states that intuition is a mechanism, which allows becoming conscious about something that is already known (Carina & Johannes, 2016). Recent definitions describe intuitions as a rapid, effortless, automatic, and unconscious process (Murphy, 2014). As Martindale and Collins (2013) put it, intuition is the revelation of memorized information and therefore represents a skill rather than a myth. Freud’s psychoanalytic technique of free association to make unconscious experiences conscious (Ziegler, 2002) may, therefore, be helping intuition.

There is increasing scientific evidence for that the human mind operates in two modes, a conscious (rational) and an unconscious (intuitive) one (Krieshok, Motl, & Rutt, 2011). However, latest state of neuroscientific research rather supports a tripartite structure of the mind composed of instincts, emotions (intuitions), and thoughts, while “emotions are not always automatic and not in general opposition to reason” (Levine, 2017, p. 1). Intuition was neuro-psychologically found to have a low- and high-level capacity, the latter being able to reconcile conflicting aspects of one’s self-concept in the form of consolidating feelings (Carina & Johannes, 2016). Consequently, intuitions could help preventing neurosis as a result of conflicts between the real and ideal self, as a self-actualizing person may experience (Finke, 2002). The importance of intuition respectively feelings for judgmental ability has been shown by Palmeira (2014). Furthermore, intuition seems to be particularly important for challenging, life purpose related (Carina & Johannes, 2016), and new and unusual situations (Gächter, 2012). However, according to Krieshok et al. (2011) people tend to take major decisions consciously and therefore more according to their social identity than based on personally intuitive and genuine criteria.

Intuition also plays a major role in moral judgment as personal differences may result from how someone depends on it (Lombrozo, 2009). Strikingly, people’s intuitive response generally results in more cooperative behavior and (over-) thinking may increase more egoistic behavior (Gächter, 2012).  In conclusion, it seems that intuition is important for human judgment and behavior and sound decisions might come from a balance of reasoning and intuition (Krieshok et al., 2011). Skilled intuition may even be an indicator of mental health. Carina and Johannes (2016) found that depressed individuals are less capable of taking choices and healthy test person have been evaluated as being able to use their intuition for problem-solving. Intuition capacity can be measured with the Types of Intuition Scale (TIntS) measures (Pretz et al., 2004).

Photo credit: xusenru (pixabay.com)


Carina, R., & Johannes, M. (2016). Loosing gut feeling? Intuition in Depression. Frontiers In Psychology, Vol 7 (2016), doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2016.01291/full

Finke, J. (2002). Aspects of the actualizing tendency from a humanistic psychology perspective. Person-Centered And Experiential Psychotherapies, 1(1-2), 28-40. doi:10.1080/14779757.2002.9688276

Gächter, S. (2012). Human behaviour: A cooperative instinct. Nature, 489(7416), 374-375. doi:10.1038/489374a

Gordon, S. (2012). Existential Time and the Meaning of Human Development. Humanistic Psychologist, 40(1), 79. doi:10.1080/08873267.2012.643691

Krieshok, T., Motl, T., & Rutt, B. (2011). The Evolution of Vocational Psychology: Questions for a Postmodern Applied Discipline. Journal Of Career Assessment, 19(3), 228-239.

Levine, D. S. (2017). Modeling the instinctive-emotional-thoughtful mind. Cognitive Systems Research, doi:10.1016/j.cogsys.2017.05.002

Lombrozo, T. (2009). The Role of Moral Commitments in Moral Judgment. Cognitive Science, 33(2), 273-286. doi:10.1111/j.1551-6709.2009.01013.x

Martindale, A., & Collins, D. (2013). The Development of Professional Judgment and Decision Making Expertise in Applied Sport Psychology. Sport Psychologist, 27(4), 390-398.

Murphy, P. (2014). Teaching Applied Ethics to the Righteous Mind. Journal Of Moral Education, 43(4), 413-428.

Palmeira, M. (2014). Intuitions in Conflict: Preference Reversals Due to Switch Between Sensitization and Diminishing Sensitivity. Journal Of Behavioral Decision Making, 27(2), 124-133.

Pretz, J., Brookings, J., Carlson, L., Humbert, T., Roy, M., Jones, M., & Memmert, D. (2014). Development and Validation of a New Measure of Intuition: The Types of Intuition Scale. Journal Of Behavioral Decision Making, 27(5), 454-467.

Sun, R., & Wilson, N. (2014). Roles of Implicit Processes: Instinct, Intuition, and Personality. Mind And Society: A Journal Of Cognitive Studies In Economics And Social Sciences, 13(1), 109-134.

Ziegler, D. J. (2002). Freud, Rogers, and Ellis: A comparative theoretical analysis. Journal Of Rational-Emotive & Cognitive-Behavior Therapy, 20(2), 75-92. doi:10.1023/A:1019808217623