ArticlePDF Available

From “Einfühlung” to empathy: exploring the relationship between aesthetic and interpersonal experience


Is there a relationship between aesthetic and interpersonal experience? This question is motivated not only by the fact that historically experiences of both kinds have often been accounted for in terms of “empathy”, the English translation of the German term “Einfühlung”, but also by the fact that some contemporary theories refer to mechanisms underlying both aesthetic and interpersonal experience. In this Editorial introducing the special section titled “From ‘Einfühlung’ to empathy: exploring the relationship between aesthetic and interpersonal experience”, we briefly sketch these two motivations and the relationship between the different mechanisms that have been associated with both aesthetic and interpersonal experience.
1 3
Cognitive Processing
From “Einfühlung” toempathy: exploring therelationship
betweenaesthetic andinterpersonal experience
JoannaGanczarek1 · ThomasHünefeldt2· MartaOlivettiBelardinelli2,3
Received: 8 March 2018 / Accepted: 4 April 2018
© The Author(s) 2018
Is there a relationship between aesthetic and interpersonal experience? This question is motivated not only by the fact that
historically experiences of both kinds have often been accounted for in terms of “empathy”, the English translation of the
German term “Einfühlung”, but also by the fact that some contemporary theories refer to mechanisms underlying both aes-
thetic and interpersonal experience. In this Editorial introducing the special section titled “From ‘Einfühlung’ to empathy:
exploring the relationship between aesthetic and interpersonal experience”, we briefly sketch these two motivations and the
relationship between the different mechanisms that have been associated with both aesthetic and interpersonal experience.
Keywords Einfühlung· Empathy· Aesthetics· Interpersonal experience
Is there a relationship between aesthetic and interpersonal
experience? Historically, this question is motivated by the
fact that experiences of both types have been accounted
for in terms of the German notion of “Einfühlung”, which
Edward Titchener (1909) and James Ward (cf. Lanzoni
2012) translated as “empathy”, thus introducing the latter
term into the English language. Accordingly, it is possible to
distinguish between aesthetic and interpersonal “empathy”
in English in much the same way as it is possible to distin-
guish between aesthetic and interpersonal “Einfühlung” in
German, thereby suggesting a common psychological mech-
anism supposed to underlie both aesthetic and interpersonal
“empathy”. The notion of “Einfühlung” was theoretically
developed in nineteenth- and early twentieth-century Ger-
man aesthetics (cf. Curtis and Elliott 2014 for a historical
overview), especially by Robert Vischer (1873) and Theodor
Lipps (1903, 1906). The term “Einfühlung” literally means
“feeling into” and refers to an act of projecting oneself into
another body or environment, i.e.—in Vischer’s (1873, p.
7) terms—to an imaginary bodily “displacement” (“Verset-
zung”) of oneself into another body or environment, which
is aimed at understanding how it feels to be in that other
body or environment. In other words, it refers to some kind
of imaginary bodily perspective taking, which is aimed at
understanding what it would be like to be living another
body or another environment. Notably, the other body or the
other environment where one “feels into” needs not neces-
sarily be physically present, but it may as well be only rep-
resented, and it may even be only imaginary. For example,
by “feeling into” a painted or verbally described landscape
it is supposedly possible to understand what it would be like
to be in that landscape and thus to understand its particu-
lar emotional tune or “atmosphere”. Similarly, by “feeling
into” a portrait, a sculpture, or a tale of a human being, it
is supposedly possible to understand what it would be like
to be that human being and thus to understand its particular
emotion or mood. Furthermore, the other body or the other
environment where one “feels into” needs not necessarily be
human but may be potentially any kind of body or environ-
ment. Accordingly, it is supposedly possible to “feel into”
animals, plants, or even inanimate objects, whose bodies and
environments are radically different from one’s own human
body and environment. Therefore, the notion of “Einfüh-
lung” is historically closely related to panpsychist ideas. In
* Joanna Ganczarek
1 Neurocognitive Psychology Lab, Pedagogical University
ofCracow, ul. Podchorazych 2, 30-084Cracow, Poland
2 ECONA – Interuniversity Center forResearch onCognitive
Processing inNatural andArtificial Systems, Sapienza
University ofRome, Via dei Marsi 78, 00185Rome, Italy
3 Department ofPsychology, Sapienza University ofRome,
Via dei Marsi 78, 00185Rome, Italy
Cognitive Processing
1 3
ordinary practice, however, the act of “feeling into” is usu-
ally applied rather to bodies or environments that are more
or less similar to one’s own body and environment. Accord-
ingly, it is usually applied to other human beings, but it is
also readily applied to works of art, thus giving rise to the
distinction between aesthetic and interpersonal “empathy”.
In fact, works of art, in general, and works of figurative art,
in particular, call for the act of “feeling into” another body
or another environment for two main reasons: (1) all works
of art are human artefacts, i.e. they have been produced by
other human beings living in other historical, cultural, and
personal environments, and (2) works of figurative art repre-
sent bodies or environments, and in particular often human
beings or human environments. Aesthetic and interpersonal
“empathy” therefore differs mainly in that interpersonal
“empathy” concerns other human beings, whereas aesthetic
“empathy” concerns human artefacts, especially those rep-
resenting human beings or human environments.
This brief introduction into the notion of “Einfühlung”
highlights several essential aspects of the psychological
mechanism that supposedly underlies both aesthetic and
interpersonal “empathy”. In particular, it evidences (1) the
fundamental role of perspective taking, (2) the essential
role of embodiment and bodily situatedness in perspec-
tive taking, and (3) the essential role of the affective, and
more precisely qualitative (i.e. qualia-like), effects of such
bodily perspective taking. To further illustrate the psycho-
logical mechanism that is thus supposed to be involved in
both aesthetic and interpersonal “empathy”, it is helpful to
consider Robert Vischer’s (1873) first theoretical account
of the notion of “Einfühlung”. For Vischer, in fact, “Ein-
fühlung” is only one of a whole set of different kinds of
affective responses to objects (see Table1). In particular,
Vischer distinguished “Einfühlung”, or “feeling into”, from
two other kinds of “feeling” with respect to an object, which
do not involve the imaginary bodily perspective taking, or
bodily “projection” into an object, that is characteristic of
“Einfühlung”. These two other forms are “Zufühlung”, i.e.
the “feeling towards” the sensory properties of an object
(e.g. its brightness and colour), and “Nachfühlung”, i.e. the
“feeling along” the motor properties of an object (e.g. its
actual or potential movement). Notably, corresponding to
these two different kinds of “feeling” which do not involve
imaginary bodily perspective taking, Vischer distinguished
two different kinds of “Einfühlung”, i.e. two different kinds
of “feeling” which result from imaginary bodily perspec-
tive taking, namely “sensory empathy” (“sensitive Einfüh-
lung”), i.e. the “feeling into” the sensory properties of an
object, and “motor empathy” (“motorische Einfühlung”),
i.e. the “feeling into” the motor properties of an object.
Furthermore, corresponding to the resulting four different
kinds of “feeling” with respect to an object, Vischer distin-
guished four different kinds of “sensation” (“Empfindung”),
namely “Zuempfindung”, “Nachempfindung”, and sensory
and motor “Einempfindung”. For Vischer, “feeling” differs
from “sensation” in that it is less “primitive” and “more
objective”, i.e. it is a somewhat more elaborate mental state
that involves being aware of others having similar feelings
as oneself. Thus, Vischer’s (1873) first theoretical account
of the notion of “Einfühlung” does not only illustrate the
fundamental role of imaginary bodily perspective taking in
“empathy”, but it also illustrates two further features that
are somewhat in contrast with some contemporary notions
of “empathy”. In fact, it implies that “empathy” needs not
necessarily be related to the motor properties of an object
and it implies that “empathy” involves the awareness that
there are others who have similar mental states as oneself.
Nowadays, the historical and conceptual roots of the
concept of “empathy” and the related historical account of
the relationship between aesthetic and interpersonal expe-
rience have got partially out of sight. Yet, there are also
some contemporary proposals that refer to a common, fun-
damental mechanism underlying both aesthetic and interper-
sonal experience. Vittorio Gallese’s (2001) shared manifold
Table 1 Different kinds of affective responses to objects according to Vischer (1873)
Affective response Concerning an object’s sensory
Concerning an object’s
motor properties
Not involving perspective taking
Without awareness of others having similar feelings as oneself Zuempfindung
(sensing towards) Nachempfindung
(sensing along)
With awareness of others having similar feelings as oneself Zufühlung
(feeling towards) Nachfühlung
(feeling along)
Involving perspective taking
Without awareness of others having similar feelings as oneself sensitive Einempfindung
(sensing into) motorische Einempfindung
(sensing into)
With awareness of others having similar feelings as oneself sensitive Einfühlung
(feeling into)
= “sensory empathy”
motorische Einfühlung
(feeling into)
= “motor empathy”
Cognitive Processing
1 3
hypothesis is one of the most important approaches that
explicitly deal with the issue in question. Gallese proposes
that our brains are hard-wired not only for understanding
other people’s emotions, actions and intentions but also for
understanding artworks. While the mirror neurons system
is supposed to be the neural base allowing such understand-
ing, embodied simulation is supposed to be the psycho-
logical mechanism responsible for it. Embodied simulation
entails activation of internal representations of body states
that correspond to the observed body states. This mirroring
mechanism gives rise to the “as if” experience, i.e. simula-
tion of being involved in a similar emotion or action. In
the interpersonal context, Gallese proposes that embodied
simulation is a basic mechanism for social identification and
intentional attunement (Gallese 2009). In the aesthetic con-
text, it is considered a basic mechanism for experiencing
the content (i.e. depicted actions, emotions and sensations)
and form (i.e. visible traces of artist’s creative gestures) of
artworks. Besides mirror neurons, Gallese argues that also
a second class of neurons, namely canonical neurons, could
be crucial for embodied simulation in response to objects
depicted in artworks. Canonical neurons, contrary to mir-
ror neurons, are not active during action observation but
are active when looking at objects. Gallese proposes that
canonical neurons allow viewers to simulate a possible inter-
action with observed objects. Importantly, despite the fact
that these two classes of neurons are activated in different
situations, both of them underlie the same mechanism, i.e.
embodied simulation. Even more importantly, while the
author admits that other factors influence aesthetic as well as
interpersonal experience (e.g. context, familiarity), he argues
that embodied simulation is the common basic mechanism.
The idea of embodied simulation thus differs from “Ein-
fühlung” insofar as (1) it doesn’t require imaginary bodily
perspective taking, i.e. the imaginary bodily “displacement”
into an object and, (2) it is necessarily related to the motor
properties of an object (e.g. its real or potential motion, its
affordances, and possibly its being an artefact) but not to
its sensory properties (e.g. its brightness or colour). What
instead connects the notion of embodied simulation with
“Einfühlung” is the stress on embodiment in terms of activa-
tion of associated bodily states and their role in perceivers
affective experiences.
Another proposal which makes a direct connection
between interpersonal and aesthetic experience is the imita-
tive decoding theory developed by Vezio Ruggieri (1986,
1997, 2001). The theory was initially based on studies on
imitation of facial expressions, but soon it was also applied
to the domain of art. The shift from interpersonal to aes-
thetic experience was accomplished through the notion of
imitation that is believed to be a mechanism underlying both
types of experiences. The theory states that perception and
decoding of external forms of objects or people involves
an imitation—via muscular tension—of the lines of tension
that these forms depict or imply. This imitation represents
an even stronger claim of embodiment with respect to Gal-
lese’s account of embodied simulation. Whereas embodied
simulation relied on brain-based representations of body
states, Ruggieri’s account of imitation relies on actual
modifications of muscular tension. These modifications of
muscular tension cause affective experiences which influ-
ence the perception of objects. In other words, viewers feel
certain bodily sensations which are attributed to the per-
ceived object. Moreover, Ruggieri proposes that besides the
imitative mechanism existing in both interpersonal and aes-
thetic situations, these two contexts share one more aspect.
He argues that there is an important precondition necessary
for a successful contact with a person or an artwork. This
precondition relies on a preliminary attitude characterised
by an optimal level of basic muscular tension that one must
assume in order to come into contact with an external object
and imitate it. Once this initial precondition is satisfied, the
imitative decoding can take place. Imitative decoding thus
differs from “Einfühlung” in that, similarly to Gallese’s the-
ory, no particular imaginary bodily “displacement” is nec-
essary, but it is enough to “resonate” with an object. What
connects imitative decoding with “Einfühlung” is the focus
on the bodily experience of perceivers and the link between
bodily muscular response and affective experiences.
Other approaches referring to mechanisms underlying
both aesthetic and interpersonal experience contribute fur-
ther to the issue in question. For example, Van de Cruys
and Wagemans (2011) see predictive coding as a common
mechanism allowing synchronisation in aesthetic and inter-
personal situations. In their view, perception of artworks and
other people is linked with expectations about the incoming
information which leads to generation of predictive models
of, for example, intentions. If the models meet reality, i.e.
if a viewer understands someone else’s intention, empathic
attunement can occur causing affectively coloured interac-
tion with an artistic or social stimulus. In a similar vein,
Leder etal. (2004) propose that the aesthetic and interper-
sonal experience converge when viewers elaborate on an art-
ist’s intentions. Other authors stress that emotional sharing
might be important in both contexts: experiencing sadness
or fear with other viewers is similar to sharing emotions in
everyday life (Egloff 2017). Others again argue that the trait
empathy which facilitates interpersonal experiences, might
also facilitate the experience of emotions in art (Gerger etal.
2017) and in particular the experience of negative emotions
in art (Menninghaus etal. 2017).
Considering these views on the relationship between
aesthetic and interpersonal experience, our aim was to
stimulate an interdisciplinary debate and provide a new
perspective on contemporary accounts of the relation-
ship between these two types of experiences. The papers
Cognitive Processing
1 3
collected in this special section address the relationship
between aesthetic and interpersonal experience from
a variety of different angles, demonstrating the impact
and versatility of both processes, on the one hand, and
their complexity, on the other. The contributing authors
propose multiple distinct theoretical approaches such as
philosophy, developmental psychology, psychophysiol-
ogy, experimental aesthetics and service design. Within
these contexts, they describe different mechanisms that
might be found in both interpersonal and aesthetic experi-
ence. Gerger etal. (2018) refer to simulation and its basis
in neural mirroring, following Freedberg and Gallese’s
account of embodied aesthetic experience (Freedberg
and Gallese 2007). They propose that a specific aspect of
empathic ability, i.e. emotional contagion, might have a
role in aesthetic experience. Stamatopoulou (2018) argues
from a developmental perspective that both aesthetic and
interpersonal experiences share the moment of sensori-
motor synchrony and spatiotemporal proximity which
allow more advanced processes of embodied perception
and imagination to take place. Taken together these pro-
cesses form the act of expressive symbolic communication
with another human being or a work of art. Esrock (2018)
argues that aesthetic and interpersonal experiences meet
in a particular process of projection called transomatiza-
tion. Transomatization occurs when viewers reinterpret a
component of their own bodies to serve as a correlate, for
something outside of the self, specifically, some quality of
an art work or its production. Importantly, the ability for
transomatization is based on early experiences of inter-
personal engagement and on development of intersubjec-
tive experiences throughout life. Brinck (2018) proposes
that aesthetic and interpersonal experiences meet in the
process of entrainment, i.e. in the tendency of physical
and biological systems to synchronise their actions and
movements. This motor synchrony allows viewers to
empathise with artworks or other people. It also allows
them to experience the affective qualities associated with
the movements. Finally, Xenakis (2018) argues that the
aesthetic experience can be embedded in an interpersonal
experience allowing construction of meaning, evaluation
and achievement of particular goals.
Already this brief presentation of the mechanisms
referred to by the authors contributing to this special sec-
tion shows that their claims regarding the relationship
between aesthetic and interpersonal experience differ on
many levels. They provide various answers to the ques-
tions regarding its roots, its character and its strength.
Thus, the papers presented in this special section invite
reflection upon various aspects of the relationship between
aesthetic and interpersonal experience. They present an
interesting and diversified picture that might inspire new
experimental studies and theories.
Compliance with ethical standards
Conflict of interest The authors declare that they have no conflict of in-
Open Access This article is distributed under the terms of the Crea-
tive Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (http://creat iveco
mmons .org/licen ses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted use, distribu-
tion, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate
credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the
Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made.
Brinck I (2018) Empathy, engagement, entrainment: the interaction
dynamics of aesthetic experience. Cogn Process. https ://doi.
org/10.1007/s1033 9-017-0805-x
Curtis R, Elliott RG (2014) An introduction to Einfühlung. Art Transl
6(4):353–376. https :// 310.2014.11425 535
Egloff B (2017) You are not alone—social sharing as a necessary addition
to the embracing factor. Behav Brain Sci. https ://
S0140 525X1 70016 62,e358
Esrock EJ (2018) Einfühlung as the breath of art: six modes of embodi-
ment. Cogn Process. https :// 9-017-0835-4
Freedberg D, Gallese V (2007) Motion, emotion and empathy in
esthetic experience. Trends Cognit Sci 11(5):197–203. https ://doi.
Gallese V (2001) The “shared manifold” hypothesis: from mirror neurons
to empathy. J Conscious Stud 8:33–50
Gallese V (2009) Mirror neurons, embodied simulation, and the neural
basis of social identification. Psychoanal Dialogues 19(5):519–536.
https :// 88090 32319 10
Gerger G, Ishizu T, Pelowski M (2017) Empathy as a guide for under-
standing the balancing of distancing-embracing with negative art.
Behav Brain Sci. https :// 525X1 70016 98,e361
Gerger G, Pelowski M, Leder H (2018) Empathy, Einfühlung, and aes-
thetic experience: the effect of emotion contagion on appreciation
of representational and abstract art using fEMG and SCR. Cogn
Process. https :// 9-017-0800-2
Lanzoni S (2012) Empathy in translation: movement and Image in the
psychological laboratory. Sci Context 25(3):301–327. https ://doi.
org/10.1017/S0269 88971 20001 54
Leder H, Belke B, Oeberst A, Augustin D (2004) A model of aesthetic
appreciation and aesthetic judgments. Br J Psychol 95(4):489–508
Lipps T (1903) Ästhetik. Psychologie des Schönen und der Kunst (vol. 1:
Grundlegung der Ästhetik). Leopold Voss, Leipzig
Lipps T (1906) Ästhetik. Psychologie des Schönen und der Kunst (vol.
2: Die ästhetische Betrachtung und die bildende Kunst). Leopold
Voss, Leipzig
Menninghaus W, Wagner V, Hanich J, Wassiliwizky E, Jacobsen T,
Koelsch S (2017) The distancing-embracing model of the enjoy-
ment of negative emotions in art reception. Behav Brain Sci. https
:// 525X1 70003 09,e347
Ruggieri V (1997) Esperienza estetica: fondamenti psicofisiologici per
un’educazione estetica. Armando Editore, Rome
Ruggieri V (2001) L’identità in psicologia e teatro. Analisi psicofisio-
logica della struttura. Ma.Gi, Rome
Ruggieri V, Fiorenza M, Sabatini N (1986) Visual decodification through
micro-imitation. Percept Mot Skills 62:475–481
Stamatopoulou D (2018) Empathy and the aesthetic: Why does art still
move us? Cogn Process. https :// 9-017-0836-3
Titchener EB (1909) Experimental psychology of the thought-processes.
MacMillan, New York
Cognitive Processing
1 3
Van de Cruys S, Wagemans J (2011) Putting reward in art: a tentative
prediction error account of visual art. i-Perception 2(9):1035–
1062. https :// aap
Vischer R (1873) Über das optische Formgefühl. Ein Beitrag zur
Ästhetik. Leipzig: Herman Credner [English edition: On the opti-
cal sense of form: a contribution to aesthetics. In: Mallgrave, HF,
Ikonomou E (eds) (1994). Empathy, form, and space: problems in
german aesthetics, 1873–1893 (pp 89–123). Santa Monica, Cali-
fornia: Getty Center for the History of Art and the Humanities]
Xenakis I (2018) Reducing uncertainty in sustainable interpersonal
service relationships: the role of aesthetics. Cogn Process. https
:// 9-017-0819-4
... Therefore, in this study we first discussed the definitions of empathy in medical education, and then clarified our own perspective on empathy. To broaden our viewpoint, we referred to the interpretation of empathy by scholars in other disciplines (Bubandt & Willerslev, 2015;Ganczarek et al., 2018;Hollan & Throop, 2011). This was followed by an examination of Japanese doctors' narratives regarding the influence of their illnesses on their medical practice, especially while interacting with patients, and the relationship between empathy and illness experience. ...
... This embodied nature of empathy could be understood via the German notion of 'Einfühlung,' meaning 'feeling into'-translated as 'empathy' in English in the early twentieth century-which was theoretically elaborated in the field of aesthetics in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries by the German philosopher Robert Vischer, and the psychologist Theodore Lipps (Ganczarek et al., 2018;Hooker, 2015). Ganczarek et al. offered a psychological perspective, introducing that 'Einfühlung refers to an act of projecting oneself into another body and environment' (Ganczarek et al., 2018, p. 141). ...
Full-text available
The ability of doctors to empathise with patients is a crucial concern in establishing humanistic medicine. Therefore, the cultivation of this ability has been discussed extensively in medical education. One theory suggests that the experience of patienthood can increase empathy among doctors. This theory is supported by previous research that published doctors’ illness narratives. However, the concept of empathy has been ambiguously defined in academic fields, including medicine; therefore, analysing how doctors experience ‘empathy’ in their interactions with patients is difficult. Our research question is how doctors who became patients describe the relationship between their illness experiences and the interactions with patients after their illness. To this end, this paper initially tracks the debates on ‘empathy’ in medicine and other disciplines, to develop a lens for analysing doctors’ illness narratives. Next, we conduct a narrative analysis of illness stories from 18 Japanese medical doctors who became patients. Our analysis supports the traditional idea that an illness can enable a doctor to become more empathetic. However, this is overly simplistic; how doctors experience and subsequently process their illness is more complex. Moreover, this notion can disregard doctors’ suffering in these circumstances, and fail to represent the often-lengthy process of mastering ‘empathy’ based on their experiences. Therefore, our analysis deconstructed the concept of ‘empathy’, showing that it can appear in various ways. Further research is required to elucidate how empathy is cultivated during the process of transformation of doctors’ illnesses, focusing on their communities and practices.
... In its earlier definition, empathy was described as an innate instinct that produces a self-awareness in the experience and awareness of the target in the observer without any perspective-taking, associative, or cognitive process [24,70]. This concept evolved over the years in different theories until the discovery of mirror neurons [60], which established a relationship between perception and action allowing a greater understanding of how imitation and empathy are produced in the brain and are related to emotion experiences [20,35]. ...
... SelEmotion(Ae, Ee) := arg max i∈Ae∪Ee arg max c P (C = c | αi) · δi (24) where αi and δi represent the angle and the intensity of the ith emotion vector (as defined in [73]), respectively. For the affect adaptation, Equation 20, the definition in the default design is: ...
Full-text available
In this paper, we present e-Genia3 an extension of AgentSpeak to provide support to the development of empathic agents. The new extension modifies the agent's reasoning processes to select plans according to the analyzed event and the affective state and personality of the agent. In addition, our proposal allows a software agent to simulate the distinction between self and other agents through two different event appraisal processes: the empathic appraisal process, for eliciting emotions as a response to other agents emotions, and the regular affective appraisal process for other non-empathic affective events. The empathic regulation process adapts the elicited empathic emotion based on intrapersonal factors (e.g., the agent's personality and affective memory) and interpersonal characteristics of the agent (e.g., the affective link between the agents). The use of a memory of past events and their corresponding elicited emotions allows the maintaining of an affective link to support long-term empathic interaction between agents.
... Of fundamental importance for the concept of aesthetic empathy is the shift in perspective, from the perceiver to the artwork, and that this new perspective evokes affective-qualitative reactions (Ganczarek, Hünefeldt, & Olivetti Belardinelli, 2018), which might be due to automatic body responses (e.g., Finisguerra et al., 2021;Freedberg, 2017) or rather to a voluntary cognitive act of the mind. Hence, even though the perceiver is bodily, cognitively, and emotionally moved by the artwork, she recognizes that the artwork depicts a (bodily) form or an (emotional) content, which is distinct from her own, and, therefore, might even cause unfamiliar or novel reactions (Brinck, 2018). ...
... In this context, we hypothesize that people with high empathy also show strong aesthetic responses, possibly due to a stronger Einfühlung into the artwork (see Gerger, Pelowski, & Leder, 2017). In the aesthetic inference mode, we assume that the ability to empathize with other people relates to the ability to infer other´s aesthetic preferences, due to a stronger Einfühlung into other persons (the distinction between Einfühlung into artworks and Einfühlung into people was already made by Theodor Lipps, see Matravers, 2017; see also Ganczarek et al., 2018). Importantly, we do not suppose that during the aesthetic inference mode participants need to emphasize with a specific person, but that the aesthetic inferences can also be made about an unknown, absent or fictive person (see Beudt & Jacobsen, 2015;Pelowski, Specker, Gerger, Leder, & Weingarden, 2020), or a whole group of unknown or absent people, since a Theory of Aesthetic Preferences had already been established. ...
Full-text available
The relation between empathy and aesthetic experience has been stated early in empirical aesthetics. Aesthetic empathy means the ability to take the perspective of an artwork´s depicted content or form. Nowadays, empathy defines the ability to infer other persons´ mental states and feelings. In this study, we investigated the relationship between empathy and aesthetic response and aesthetic inference abilities. Subjects judged twenty-four visual artworks on an affective, a cognitive, and a beauty dimension, in a Self- and Other-assessment. We analyzed these data in relation to self-judged empathy on four dimensions: emotional and cognitive empathy in fictitious and in real-world situations. Additionally, we considered gender differences in empathy and aesthetic response. Results show (gender-specific) correlations between empathy and aesthetic response and aesthetic inference abilities. This supports the assumption that empathy assists to adopt the perspective of visual artworks as well as to infer the aesthetic preferences of other people.
... However, the experience resulting from the simulation will not be as strong as own physical experience, although it may also depend on the person's capacity for perspective-taking or empathy (Ganczarek et al., 2018;Miller & Hübner, 2022; see also . ...
Full-text available
Recent research on empirical aesthetics conducted in a laboratory setting has shown that the beauty felt in response to an artwork depends on its interactivity and suggested that interactivity might shape aesthetic experience. The current study tested the role of availability of interacting with installations on naïve viewers’ understanding, liking, and affect. Participants were presented with contemporary installations alongside differing levels/degrees of interactions with them: (a) own-interaction, that is, own interactions and optional observing other viewers when interacting (in an art gallery), (b) other-interaction, that is, observing the viewer when interacting (in a laboratory setting), and (c) nointeraction, that is, interaction unavailable at all (control condition—in a laboratory setting). In Conditions B and C, artwork reproductions were presented. The results showed that in the own-interaction condition, participants liked the artworks more than in the laboratory setting conditions (when data from other-interaction and no-interaction conditions were combined). However, this result should be explained by the gallery effect rather than the degree of interactions. At the same time, subjective understanding and affective state did not differ depending on the level of interaction. Moreover, we tested what kind of affective state correlates with a greater tendency to interact with installations when viewing them in the art gallery. The variance of engagement in interaction with installations as statistically significantly positively explained (overall 42%) by valence (more positive states), subjective significance (more significant) and origin of affective states (metaphorically originating more from reasons of the mind, i.e., more deliberated upon and rational).
... Edward Titchener [16] and James Ward (cf. Lanzoni [17]) translated this concept with the English word "empathy [12] ." ...
Empathy is relevant to but not sufficient to fully understand relationships. Recent research has proposed that empathy is part of a continuum—from pity to sympathy to empathy to compassion—and that compassion is the key to building good relationships because it includes actions. We offer an extension of this concept to include neutrality (apathy) and add four constructs of opposition—from antipathy to animosity to hostility to aggression. We describe all nine constructs with regard to cognitive, emotional, and behavioral support or opposition. Further, we propose that it is useful to consider these constructs in terms of character, competence, context, and communication at four psychosocial levels—personal, interpersonal, team, and organizational. We believe that relationships can be best addressed with these concepts in mind and that application of the support versus oppose poles of the aggression-compassion continuum are not equivalent to good and bad.
... Un concepto que surge en la psicología y en la filosofía estética entre los siglos XIX y XX de la mano de autores como Robert Vischer y Theodor Lipps, según el cual se entiende el sentimiento como una acción libre que, a diferencia de lo que sucede con el pensamiento lógico, se rige sola y sin normas, y que toma las formas exteriores como símbolos de la propia vida. El término "Einfühlung" significa literalmente "sentir en" y se refiere a un acto de proyectarse en otro cuerpo o entorno, que tiene como objetivo comprender cómo se siente estar en él (Ganczarek, Hünefeldt y Belardinelli, 2018;Morgade Salgado, 2000;Rábago, 2013). ...
... The concept of empathy has changed over time and today is applied in several distinct disciplinary contexts because it is a proteiform construct encompassing mechanisms underlying experiences, from interpersonal to aesthetic ones (Ganczarek et al., 2018). In the last decades, empathy functioning has been progressively and more thoroughly investigated in psychiatric (Decety & Moriguchi, 2007) and neurological diseases (Pick et al., 2019). ...
Objective: Empathy functioning is among the criteria to delineate psychiatric diagnosis. However, the self-oriented empathy dimension is almost neglected in the existing literature. On the basis of previous fragmented contributions, we hypothesised that an individual's level of personality organisation is explained by this facet of empathy more than the other components of empathy, both transversally and independently from the specific psychiatric diagnosis. Method: Fifty-nine psychiatric inpatients were evaluated with clinical interviews inspired by the Structured Clinical Interview for DSM-5, completed the Symptom Checklist-90-Revised, and Interpersonal Reactivity Index (IRI). A panel of experts established each patient's psychiatric diagnosis and the level of personality organisation according to DSM-5 and PDM-2. Thirty-two patients were considered functioning at a psychotic level, 27 at a borderline level, and none at a neurotic level. Multinomial models were compared with the corrected AIC to determine if self-oriented empathy, among all IRI subscales, was the best-fitting model for explaining the levels of personality organisation. A further analogue series of models was used to investigate the best IRI subscale to explain each patient's psychiatric diagnosis. Results: The first series of models revealed self-oriented empathy (IRI personal distress subscale) as the best empathic dimension to explain levels of personality organisation. The second series revealed that none of the four IRI subscales explained psychiatric diagnoses. Conclusions: The consistency of our findings with evolutionary concepts pertaining to both traditional psychodynamic models and contemporary models of psychopathology, such as the p factor theory, was illustrated. Despite the many limitations of our consecutive sampling jeopardising the findings' generalisability, the insight of self-oriented empathy as the best predictor of the level of personality organisation, irrespective of psychiatric diagnosis, has several implications from both research and clinical/diagnostic perspectives.
Full-text available
We live within and are made up of ever-changing chemical flows. Witnessing a “chemical turn” in the social sciences, this article asks what a chemical reading of drugs and bodies can offer an understanding of drug dependency and recovery. Where chemicals render bodies “molecular” (Deleuze and Guattari, 1987), they open them up to more intimate forms of connection that extend our understanding of drug–body relationships beyond limiting categories such as addiction. Rather than a chemical drug entering a biological body, there are chemical interactions that expand the boundaries of where one ends and the other begins. While chemicals have long been a preoccupation in neurological models of addiction, they are seldom taken up in sociological studies of these concerns. Drawing on a series of body-mapping workshops with people in drug recovery/treatment in London, UK, to track these chemical bodies, this article explores the art of living a chemically transformed life. This is an art that thinks with Isabelle Stengers’ (in Stengers and Savransky, 2018) notion of the word to include “not paying attention” as a mode of “paying attention to what may lurk” in living with the ongoing effects of drugs in unequally entangled worlds.
Full-text available
Art historians recognize Preston Dickinson as a leading American modern artist and a major contributor to the Precisionist movement of the 1920s. However, researchers have tended to overlook Dickinson's transitional work of the late-nineteen teens, even though it is emblematic of a groundbreaking generation of young Americans coming to terms with European modernism and non-Western styles. This essay analyzes one of Dickinson's major early paintings, Mountain Farm in the Snow, in which he synthesized a traditional American theme with elements of European Cubism and Japanese printed landscapes. The goal is to reevaluate Preston Dickinson's transitional aesthetic and to position Mountain Farm in its proper place within his oeuvre and the early modernist canon.
In a world where brands are becoming ever more ubiquitous, competition is increasing, and consumers are, every day, more demanding, creating and maintaining powerful, emotional, and reciprocal relationships between brands and their stakeholders is no longer just an ambition, but an imperative call. This can potentially be accomplished by focusing on a brand purpose that consumers identify with and can be stimulated through the creation of unique and distinct experiences and by the development of interpersonal feelings, such as empathy. This chapter proposes a new model for measuring and evaluating brand empathy. For this study, the automotive sector was chosen to test the proposed model. Through a quantitative study, divided into two periods, the awareness of the automotive brands was evaluated, after which the proposed model was applied. This investigation concluded that the majority of automotive industry are characterized by consumers as not very empathetic, as well as the advertising campaigns created by these brands.
Full-text available
We connect the Distancing-Embracing model to theoretical and empirical evidence regarding empathy, which raises questions about the ordering and modulation of distancing in particular. Namely, distancing may not be a binary, continuously on/off process. Rather we suggest that changes in distancing as actualized via the relation between the individual and art (e.g., through empathy) might be a useful avenue for further consideration.
Full-text available
In this article I will argue for the affective-motivation (background affective attitude or orientation) hypothesis that incubates the aesthetic experience and sets the deep frame of our engagement with art. For this, I look at these microgenetic—early passages of (a) affective perception as mapped into the early emergence of tertiary qualities that underlie a sensorimotor synchronization—a coupling of action, emotion and perception via mirroring that result in dynamic embodied anticipatory control and a feeling of proximity/connectedness and (b) developmental passages that are characterized by spatiotemporal coordination and proximity of the self-other/interactive object and thus structure intentionality, shape experience, in an engaging world of action potentialities forming a background affective attitude. As I will argue these qualitative emergent layers provide the minimal for the aesthetic and the ‘feeling into’ empathy, or their phenomenological counterparts enable engaged, embodied perception and imagination underlying expressive symbolic communication in interpersonal settings but also for the possibility of art. These layers have an ‘echoing’ effect (pre-attentive) when we let ourselves to be ‘moved’ from within by art. The underlying mechanism could be found in the mirroring interface of the upcoming bottom-up and feeding forward anticipatory/predictive (top-down) function of the ‘embodied action’ representations that are affective, imitative and grounded in the body-affective matrix—carrying experiential affordances and keeping the intersubjective ties between spectator and beheld/object. Given the asymmetry on action tendency between them that affords the ‘subordination of the goal-directed action’ into to the means of the action’s unfolding, aesthetic experiences can go deeply back reconstructing the first level of emerging consciousness where both the aesthetic and ethic became actualities. This could be by itself deeply rewarding, amplifying the experience to the ‘edge’. This is a ‘hot’ cognition self-restructuring related to morality when facing the sufferings—so there might be something special bout art and negative emotions in relation to empathy.
Full-text available
A recent version of the view that aesthetic experience is based in empathy as inner imitation explains aesthetic experience as the automatic simulation of actions, emotions, and bodily sensations depicted in an artwork by motor neurons in the brain. Criticizing the simulation theory for committing to an erroneous concept of empathy and failing to distinguish regular from aesthetic experiences of art, I advance an alternative, dynamic approach and claim that aesthetic experience is enacted and skillful, based in the recognition of others' experiences as distinct from one's own. In combining insights from mainly psychology, phenomenology, and cognitive science, the dynamic approach aims to explain the emergence of aesthetic experience in terms of the reciprocal interaction between viewer and artwork. I argue that aesthetic experience emerges by participatory sense-making and revolves around movement as a means for creating meaning. While entrainment merely plays a preparatory part in this, aesthetic engagement constitutes the phenomenological side of coupling to an artwork and provides the context for exploration, and eventually for moving, seeing, and feeling with art. I submit that aesthetic experience emerges from bodily and emotional engagement with works of art via the complementary processes of the perception-action and motion-emotion loops. The former involves the embodied visual exploration of an artwork in physical space, and progressively structures and organizes visual experience by way of perceptual feedback from body movements made in response to the artwork. The latter concerns the movement qualities and shapes of implicit and explicit bodily responses to an artwork that cue emotion and thereby modulate over-all affect and attitude. The two processes cause the viewer to bodily and emotionally move with and be moved by individual works of art, and consequently to recognize another psychological orientation than her own, which explains how art can cause feelings of insight or awe and disclose aspects of life that are unfamiliar or novel to the viewer.
Full-text available
Since the advent of the concept of empathy in the scientific literature, it has been hypothesized, although not necessarily empirically verified, that empathic processes are essential to aesthetic experiences of visual art. We tested how the ability to " feel into " (" Einfühlung ") emotional content—a central aspect of art empathy theories—affects the bodily responses to and the subjective judgments of representational and abstract paintings. The ability to feel into was measured by a standardized pre-survey on " emotional contagion " —the ability to pick up and mirror, or in short to " feel into, " emotions, which often overlaps with higher general or interpersonal empathetic abilities. Participants evaluated the artworks on several aesthetic dimensions (liking, valence, moving, and interest) while their bodily reactions indicative of empathetic engagement (facial electromyography-EMG, and skin conductance responses-SCR) were recorded. High-compared to low emotion contagion participants showed both more congruent and more intense bodily reactions (EMG and SCR) and aesthetic evaluations (higher being moved, valence, and interest), and also liked the art more. This was largely the case for both representational and abstract art, although stronger with the representational category. Our findings provide tentative evidence for recent arguments by art theorists for a close " empathic " mirroring of emotional content. We discuss this interpretation, as well as a potential tie between emotion contagion and a general increase in emotion intensity, both of which may impact, in tandem, the experience and evaluation of art.
I argue that the Embracing factor cannot be adequately conceptualized without taking into account the regulatory power of the social sharing of emotions. Humans tend to share their negative emotions with close others, and they benefit from it. I outline how this mechanism works in art reception by regulating and transforming negative emotions into positive experiences.
Robert Vischer’s concept of Einfühlung, feeling-into, translated as empathy, serves as the departure point for a proposal about viewing art using the body for a non-imitative form of empathy termed a transomatization and for other embodied operations. A transomatization occurs when viewers reinterpret a component or process of their own bodies to serve as a non-imitative stand-in, or correlate, for something outside of the self, specifically, some quality of an art work or its production. This creates an overlap of the self and other that might be experienced subjectively as a feeling of projection, an operation characteristic of empathy. Transomatizations and other embodied experiences are grounded in empathic, intersubjective modes of engaging others that begin in early life. As applications of the proposed concepts, six different embodiments of the viewer’s breathing are explored in regard to Friedrich E. Church’s 1848 oil painting Morning, Looking East over the Hudson Valley from the Catskill Mountains. Support for elements of the proposed concepts and applications is drawn from research in the biological and social sciences and from first person, embodied accounts of viewing.
Sustainable interpersonal service relationships (SISRs) are the outcome of a design process that supports situated meaningful interactions between those being served and those in service. Service design is not just directed to simply satisfy the ability to perceive the psychological state of others, but more importantly, it should aim at preserving these relationships in relation to the contextual requirements that they functionally need, in order to be or remain sustainable. However, SISRs are uncertain since they have many possibilities to be in error in the sense that the constructed, situated meanings may finally be proven unsuccessful for the anticipations and the goals of those people engaged in a SISR. The endeavor of this paper is to show that aesthetic behavior plays a crucial role in the reduction of the uncertainty that characterizes such relationships. Aesthetic behavior, as an organized network of affective and cognitive processes, has an anticipatory evaluative function with a strong influence on perception by providing significance and value for those aspects in SISRs that exhibit many possibilities to serve goals that correspond to sustainable challenges. Thus, aesthetic behavior plays an important role in the construction of meanings that are related to both empathic and contextual aspects that constitute the entire situation in which a SISR takes place. Aesthetic behavior has a strong influence in meaning-making, motivating the selection of actions that contribute to our initial goal of interacting with uncertainty, to make the world a bit less puzzling and, thus, to improve our lives, or in other words, to design.
Why are negative emotions so central in art reception far beyond tragedy? Revisiting classical aesthetics in light of recent psychological research, we present a novel model to explain this much-discussed (apparent) paradox. We argue that negative emotions are an important resource for the arts in general rather than a special license for exceptional art forms only. The underlying rationale is that negative emotions have been shown to be particularly powerful in securing attention, intense emotional involvement, and high memorability—and hence precisely in what artworks strive for. Two groups of processing mechanisms are identified that conjointly adopt the particular powers of negative emotions for art's purposes. The first group consists of psychological distancing mechanisms that are activated along with the cognitive schemata of art, representation, and fiction. These schemata imply personal safety and control over continuing or discontinuing exposure to artworks, thereby preventing negative emotions from becoming outright incompatible with expectations of enjoyment. This distancing sets the stage for a second group of processing components that allow art recipients to positively embrace the experiencing of negative emotions, thereby rendering art reception more intense, more interesting, more emotionally moving, more profound, and occasionally even more beautiful. These components include compositional interplays of positive and negative emotions, the effects of aesthetic virtues of using the media of (re)presentation (musical sound, words/language, color, shapes) on emotion perception, and meaning-making efforts. Moreover, our D istancing –E mbracing model proposes that concomitant mixed emotions often help to integrate negative emotions into altogether pleasurable trajectories.
The new English term “empathy” was translated from the German Einfühlung in the first decade of the twentieth century by the psychologists James Ward at the University of Cambridge and Edward B. Titchener at Cornell. At Titchener's American laboratory, “empathy” was not a matter of understanding other minds, but rather a projection of imagined bodily movements and accompanying feelings into an object, a meaning that drew from its rich nineteenth-century aesthetic heritage. This rendering of “empathy” borrowed kinaesthetic meanings from German sources, but extended beyond a contemplation of the beautiful to include a variety of experimental stimuli and everyday objects in the laboratory. According to Titchener's structural psychology, all higher thought could be reduced to more elemental aspects of mind, and experimental introspection showed empathy to be constituted of kinaesthetic images. The existence of kinaesthetic images, Titchener argued, formed an incisive critique of the view that thought could take place without images, held by one of Titchener's major psychological rivals, the school of thought-psychologists in Würzburg, Germany. The new term “empathy” in early American academic psychology therefore delineated a kinaesthetic imaginative projection that took place on the basis of ontological difference between minds and things.