Affective - Cognitive Model

The Affective - Cognitive Model
This is the most common model of empathy. Here I want to show explore the model and how it is described.

Affective Empathy Definitions
Affective empathy is sometimes defined as

  1. feeling what someone else feels. (vicariously sharing the emotion.)

  2. or the feelings that some up in reaction to what one has felt by feeling into someone else.

Various Definitions

  • "Affective empathy is seen as an emotional reaction" (Cabedo-Peri+ 2021)

  • "affective empathy, and refers to the inner feelings that arise and the subtle copying of expressions that happens when we see others express emotion." (SIMON-THOMAS)

  • "Affective response is a physiological component that involves the automatic and unconscious process of affect sharing, or the mirroring of another person’s actions. For example, when sitting with a client who is crying, a practitioner might feel as if she or he is going to cry. This is a result of the automatic mirroring action that is going on unconsciously. Our mirroring neuron system activates the same physiological sensations as if we are actually doing the action. However, rather than begin to cry, the practitioner experiences the other components of empathy that are triggered to process this affective response. The other three components are cognitive processes. " (WAGAMAN + 2014)

Cognitive Empathy Definitions

Various Definitions

  • "Someone can understand the feelings of the victim (cognitive empathy), while showing no emotional reaction to such feelings; that is, without feeling what the victim feels (low affective empathy)." (Cabedo-Peri+ 2021)

      • Notes: (the indifference is a reaction?)

  • Cognitive vs. Emotional Empathy - When we practice cognitive empathy, we are practicing taking the perspective of another person. In essence, we are imagining what it might be like to actually be this person in their situation. Cognitive empathy is also referred to as perspective-taking, which lends itself to the idea of putting ourselves in someone else's shoes. Very Well Mind

General Problems with the Affective - Cognitive Empathy Model

  1. The model seems to ignore the previous models of empathy by Carl Rogers.

  2. The model is overly academic. using complicated terminology like 'affective' and 'cognitive' which the average person would find hard to understand.

  3. The model does not accurately model the reality of empathy

  4. There are different definitions use for both 'affective empathy' and 'cognitive empathy'. the definitions of affective and cognitive empathy do not seem consistent.

  5. The model is easily misinterpreted.

  6. Alison mentioned this model is losing support in the academic community and she felt it would be gone in 10years

  7. The model seems to have been created by theorists or cognitive phycologists who do not have the real world experience of applying empathy, like clinical phycologists do.

Specific Problems with the Affective Model

  • Affective Empathy (reaction): is often defined as an emotional reaction. Edwin would not see that as empathy. Sensing into the feelings of someone is the emotional part of empathy, not the reactions to what one finds. The reactions often block the flow of empathy. (In the circle, the reactions of the listener to the speaker would be considered empathy by Affective Empathy (reaction). The model has many aspects that would be possible reactions to feeling into someone's experience.

Specific Problems with the Cognitive Empathy

  • the idea of cognition seems to be that it doesn't have a felt experience. it seems to be seen as a not feeling state.


  • The BES [3] consists of 20 items, which are divided into two factors: cognitive empathy (9 items) and affective empathy (11 items).