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Cognitive Empathy

We have various strategies available to us for understanding another person’s state of mind. Perspective taking may be achieved by mental simulation, i.e. by imagining yourself in another’s situation and figuring out what you would think and feel in that situation. Alternatively, you could consider all the relevant information about the person’s situation and folk psychology and draw a sophisticated inference to the best explanation of that person’s perspective. In this chapter, I examine the conditions under which we are likely to use these two familiar strategies for perspective taking and when they are likely to effective. In addition, I discuss a third underexplored pattern of reasoning in perspective taking. Self-serving goals, such as anxiety reduction, self-esteem, and confirmation of one’s worldview, distort the perspective taking process. I consider these different strategies in light of hybrid theories of perspective taking.

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