The Neuroscience of Empathy, Compassion, and Self-Compassion - 1st Edition - ISBN: 9780128098370

The Neuroscience of Empathy, Compassion, and Self-Compassion

1st Edition

Editors: Larry Stevens C. Woodruff
Paperback ISBN: 9780128098370
Imprint: Academic Press
Published Date: 1st May 2018
Page Count: 350
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The Neuroscience of Empathy, Compassion, and Self-Compassion provides contemporary perspectives on the three related domains of empathy, compassion and self-compassion (ECS). It informs current research, stimulates further research endeavors, and encourages continued and creative philosophical and scientific inquiry into the critical societal constructs of ECS. Examining the growing number of electrocortical (EEG Power Spectral, Coherence, Evoked Potential, etc.) studies and the sizeable body of exciting neuroendocrine research (e.g., oxytocin, dopamine, etc.) that have accumulated over decades, this reference is a unique and comprehensive approach to empathy, compassion and self-compassion.

Key Features

  • Provides perspectives on empathy, compassion and self-compassion (ECS), including discussions of cruelty, torture, killings, homicides, suicides, terrorism and other examples of empathy/compassion erosion
  • Addresses autonomic nervous system (vagal) reflections of ECS
  • Discusses recent findings and understanding of ECS from mirror neuron research
  • Covers neuroendocrine manifestations of ECS and self-compassion and the neuroendocrine enhancement
  • Examines the neuroscience research on the enhancement of ECS
  • Includes directed-meditations (mindfulness, mantra, Metta, etc.) and their effects on ECS and the brain


Upper-level undergraduate and graduate students and researchers in psychology, cognitive science, and neuroscience

Table of Contents

  1. What is this feeling that I have for myself and for others? Contemporary perspectives on empathy, compassion, and self-compassion, and their absence
    2. The brain that feels for others: The current neuroscience of empathy
    3. The brain that longs to help others: The current neuroscience of compassion
    4. The brain that longs to help itself: The current neuroscience of self-compassion
    5. Sometimes I get so mad I could...: The neuroscience of cruelty
    6. All you need is love: The autonomic nervous system and prosocial behavior
    7. Reflections of others and of self: The mirror neuron system’s relationship to empathy, compassion, and self-compassion
    8. Why does it feel so good to care for others, but only sometimes for myself? Neuroendocrine manifestations of empathy, compassion, and self-compassion
    9. Can we change your mind about caring for yourself and others? Neuroscience research on the enhancement of empathy, compassion, and self-compassion
    10. Directed meditations on compassion: You can change your mind
    11. Increasing self-compassion: The neuroendocrine enhancement of Self
    12. Teach your children well: Developmental neuroscience and empathy, compassion, and self-compassion
    13. Where caring for self and others lives in the brain, and how it can be enhanced, and diminished: A summary of the neuroscience on empathy, compassion, and self-compassion.


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© Academic Press 2018
Academic Press
Paperback ISBN:

About the Editor

Larry Stevens

Larry Stevens' primary interests are in teaching and research in the broad sub-specialty of health psychology and behavioral medicine. He coordinates a very active undergraduate and graduate research program in the psychophysiology of altered states of consciousness, of compassion, of psychotherapy techniques, and particularly in clinical hypnosis. He uses electroencephalography (EEG) and EEG neuroimaging techniques to measure and to display brain changes from a variety of states of consciousness. Dr. Stevens is the principal investigator and program coordinator of the department's National Science Foundation (NSF)-sponsored summer undergraduate research internships into the Social Psychophysiology of Compassion. Each summer, he leads a team of faculty mentors and eight undergraduate interns from across the country in the conduct of social and psychophysiological research into the cortical, physiological, and psychosocial underpinnings of compassionate behavior. Research outcomes are presented each year at local, regional, and national (APA) conferences.

Affiliations and Expertise

Department of Psychological Sciences, Northern Arizona University, Flagstaff, AZ, USA

C. Woodruff

Dr. Woodruff is a Social Neuroscientist whose research aims to elucidate the brain mechanisms underlying empathy, sympathy and compassion as well as religious belief. He uses electroencephalography (EEG) to measure various brain signals, investigating how these signals relate to social neuroscience topics. Much of his research focuses on an EEG signal believed to reflect the activity of mirror neurons. These are neurons that not only code the intentions of an individual, but also seem to reflect the intentions of those with whom the individual interacts. Among the most important findings in his laboratory is that putative mirror neuron activity has a complicated relationship with empathy in which the one’s empathic abilities increase with the ability of his/her mirror neuron systems ability to distinguish self from other (self-other discrimination). Dr. Woodruff maintains a vibrant lab, typically employing 10-15 students (graduate and undergraduate) who participate in all facets of the research process.

Affiliations and Expertise

Department of Psychological Sciences, Northern Arizona University, Flagstaff, AZ, USA

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