Empathy: The Role of Expectations

Sabrina Trapp, Simone Schütz-Bosbach, Moshe Bar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


To what extent can we feel what someone else feels? Data from neuroscience suggest that empathy is supported by a simulation process, namely the neural activation of the same or similar regions that subserve the representation of specific states in the observer. However, expectations significantly modulate sensory input, including affective information. For example, expecting painful stimulation can decrease the neural signal and the subjective experience thereof. For an accurate representation of the other person’s state, such top-down processes would have to be simulated as well. However, this is only partly possible, because expectations are usually acquired by learning. Therefore, it is important to be aware of possible misleading simulations that lead to misinterpretations of someone’s state.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)161-166
Number of pages6
JournalEmotion Review
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1 Apr 2018

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Author note: We thank Laura Levine for proofreading the manuscript. This study was supported by the Israeli Center of Research Excellence in Cognition (I-CORE) Grant 51/11 (MB). Corresponding author: Sabrina Trapp, Gonda Multidisciplinary Brain Research Center, Ramat Gan, Israel. Email: sabrina.trapp@biu.ac.il

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017, © The Author(s) 2017.


  • affect sharing
  • emotional contagion
  • mirror neurons
  • modulation
  • top-down


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