Roots and Collapse of Empathy

Human nature at its best and at its worst

| University of Oslo
ISBN 9789027213587 | EUR 99.00 | USD 149.00
ISBN 9789027271730 | EUR 99.00 | USD 149.00
Spanning from care-giving infants and civilian rescuers risking their life to the collapse of empathy in agents of torture and extinction, this unique book deals with and illustrates the altruistic best and atrocious worst of human nature. It begins with infant roots of empathy, then turns to the neurosocial support of empathic participation, and to the nature and nurture of good and ill. It raises questions about how abuse may invite vicious circles of re-enactment, and as to how ordinary people may come to commit torture and mass murders, such as the Auschwitz doctors and the sole terrorist attacking Norway on July 22, 2011.
[Advances in Consciousness Research, 91]  2013.  xv, 276 pp.
Publishing status: Available
Table of Contents
List of figures
Introduction and overview
I. Infant roots of empathy and mutual infant-adult attunement
1. Empathic participation: When infants feed others and participate in their movements
2. Infant and adult in interpersonal communion and upon perturbation
3. Empathic distress, moral development and dilemma-processing
II. Empathy, dialogue, and their blockage
4. Empathy and its neurosocial support: Mirror neurons
5. Children hurting and comforting, and being victims of abuse and net-bullying
6. When nature prevents empathy, while opening for special talents: Autism
7. When dialogue breaks down: Submitting to group pressure and a monolithic perspective
III. From genocide and terrorism to rescue and altruism
8. How can ordinary persons become agents of torture and extermination?
9. The sole terrorist’s attacks on Norway, July 22, 2011
10. From civilian rescuers to this question: Is armed violence declining and non-violent revolt increasing?
Name index
Subject index
“Pioneering new ways of perceiving and explaining universal impulses of human cooperation and compassion, opposing the idea that we are born egocentric, out of touch with others’ minds and feelings, Stein Bråten offers compelling evidence that infants and young children have the capability of sharing actions and pleasures with a parent or other child, affording sympathetic help in feeding or care of distress. He predicted the discovery of ‘mirror neurons’, the brain mechanism of such shared attention. Now, turning to events of shocking insensitivity that appear to contradict the above kindness, he gives a dark history of mass murder and cruelty by ordinary individuals submitting to the canon ‘Let there be a world free of evil!’. He explains this paradox as partly due to early experience of rejection of the desire to connect with parents and companions. I believe we must follow his lead and try to understand the nature of the emotions that promote the goodness of the commonwealth of human creativity and altruistic rescue, and also the emotional sources of the evil of ideological conflict and acts of inhumane self-assertion and atrocious cruelty.”
Cited by

Cited by 5 other publications

No author info given
2020.  In Introducing Cognitive Analytic Therapy,  pp. 315 ff. Crossref logo
Berardi, M. Kate, Annie M. White, Dana Winters, Kaila Thorn, Mark Brennan & Pat Dolan
2020. Rebuilding communities with empathy. Local Development & Society 1:1  pp. 57 ff. Crossref logo
Borgen, Berit
2016. Transformative Existential Experiences and the Mental Growth Stages Illustrated by Case Reports. Archive for the Psychology of Religion 38:1  pp. 89 ff. Crossref logo
Borgen, Berit
2018. The Human Mental Transcending Ability as a Coping and Life-Expanding Resource. Journal of Spirituality in Mental Health 20:1  pp. 70 ff. Crossref logo
Trevarthen, Colwyn
2019.  In Early Interaction and Developmental Psychopathology,  pp. 1 ff. Crossref logo

This list is based on CrossRef data as of 12 september 2021. Please note that it may not be complete. Sources presented here have been supplied by the respective publishers. Any errors therein should be reported to them.

Subjects & Metadata

Consciousness Research

Consciousness research


BIC Subject: JMH – Social, group or collective psychology
BISAC Subject: PSY031000 – PSYCHOLOGY / Social Psychology
ONIX Metadata
ONIX 2.1
ONIX 3.0
U.S. Library of Congress Control Number:  2013014329 | Marc record