Empathizing: neurocognitive developmental mechanisms and individual differences

Prog Brain Res. 2006;156:403-17. doi: 10.1016/S0079-6123(06)56022-4.


This chapter reviews the Mindreading System model encompassing four neurocognitive mechanisms (ID, EDD, SAM, and ToMM) before reviewing the revised empathizing model encompassing two new neurocognitive mechanisms (TED and TESS). It is argued that the empathizing model is more comprehensive because it entails perception, interpretation, and affective responses to other agents. Sex differences in empathy (female advantage) are then reviewed, as a clear example of individual differences in empathy. This leads into an illustration of individual differences using the Empathy Quotient (EQ). Finally, the neuroimaging literature in relation to each of the neurocognitive mechanisms is briefly summarized and a new study is described that tests if different brain regions respond to the perception of different facial expressions of emotion, as a function of the observer's EQ.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Brain / growth & development*
  • Brain / physiology
  • Cognition / physiology*
  • Empathy*
  • Expressed Emotion / physiology*
  • Facial Expression
  • Humans
  • Pattern Recognition, Visual / physiology
  • Psychological Theory*