What is the meaning of empathy?
A cognitive awareness and understanding of the emotions and feelings of another person. In this sense the term's primary connotation is that of an intellectual or conceptual grasping of the affect of another.
A vicarious affective response to the emotional experiences of another person that mirrors or mimics that emotion. In this sense there is the clear implication that an empathic experience is a sharing of the emotion with the other person.
Assuming, in one's mind, the role of another person. This meaning derives from 1, but differs slightly in that there is the added notion that empathy involves taking on the perspective of the other person. This meaning is common in the literature on moral development, in which some theorists argue that empathy with another is a prerequisite for the development of a moral code.
In H. S. Sullivan's theory of personality, an unverbalized, covert communication process whereby attitudes, feelings and judgements are passed from person to person without ever being publicly articulated. Sullivan's use of the term is quite broad and encompasses the more restricted connotations of the above meanings. See also SYMPATHY for more on the terminology of shared affect.
empathy. (2009). In The Penguin Dictionary of Psychology. Retrieved from Credo Reference, a database available through the Online Library.