Empathy and emotion regulation: An integrative account

Prog Brain Res. 2019:247:273-304. doi: 10.1016/bs.pbr.2019.03.024. Epub 2019 May 10.


How we understand and respond to others' emotions (i.e., empathy) may be influenced by the regulatory processes that are used to shape which emotions we and others have (i.e., emotion regulation). Empathy and emotion regulation are complex multidimensional constructs and the relationship between their component processes is not well characterized. To enable future work to examine their relationship more closely, this chapter presents an integrative framework of empathy and emotion regulation. We begin by delineating the component processes that underlie empathy and emotion regulation, and the neural underpinnings of these processes. We then present an integrative framework describing the processes of empathy and how these may be acted upon by distinct regulatory strategies. We conclude with a brief consideration of contextual influences on empathy and emotion regulation using a reward-based heuristic.

Keywords: Affective; Cognitive; Emotion regulation; Empathy; Neuroscience.

MeSH terms

  • Behavior / physiology
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Emotional Regulation / physiology*
  • Emotions / physiology*
  • Empathy / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Reward