Why Cognitive Empathy Matters and How it Works in Tandem with Reason

“You never really understand another person until you consider things from his point of view – until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.” [Harper Lee, To Kill A Mockingbird] The term empathy refers to sensitivity and understanding of the mental states of others. We can put ourselves in other people’s shoes, see things from their point of view.


Nursing scholar Theresa Wiseman calls out four attributes or four qualities to empathy —

  • 1./ To be able to see the world as others see it;
  • 2./To be nonjudgmental;
  • 3./ To understand another person’s feelings;
  • 4./ To communicate our understanding of that person’s feelings.


But the term empathy has been used to refer to two distinct, yet related human abilities — mental perspective taking and the vicarious sharing of emotion.


Scientists call the first cognitive empathy and the second emotional empathy.