No Empathy without Self-Boundaries: A New Spatial Attention Concept for Understanding Empathy

Klaus Blaser

Abstract


Study of inter-personal perception has so far focused chiefly on the person doing the perceiving. In this article, we demonstrate by means of a spatial inter-personal model of attention how empathic perception of a fellow human presents a perfect opportunity to also take into consideration the person being perceived.

If we follow the logic of this new model, it becomes clear that the personal mental self-boundary is vitally important for the capacity for empathy. By comparing empathy with compassion and the theory-theory mode of perception, it is shown that the perception of others is determined by the spatially defined location of attention. At the same time, it becomes clear that the quality of these different perceptions of others are also determined by one’s own self-boundary and that of the other.

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