Science in Context

Research Article

Empathy, Simulation, and Narrative

Shaun Gallaghera1

a1 University of Memphis (USA) and University of Hertfordshire (UK) E-mail:


A number of theorists have proposed simulation theories of empathy. A review of these theories shows that, despite the fact that one version of the simulation theory can avoid a number of problems associated with such approaches, there are further reasons to doubt whether simulation actually explains empathy. A high-level simulation account of empathy, distinguished from the simulation theory of mindreading, can avoid problems associated with low-level (neural) simulationist accounts; but it fails to adequately address two other problems: the diversity problem and the starting problem. It is argued that a narrative approach to empathy obviates all these problems and offers a more parsimonious account.