Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another individual. It can be viewed as putting oneself in the shoes of another. In Dramaturgy in Motion, Profeta uses the term kinaesthetic empathy, an empathy that arises through motion. The idea of kinaesthetic empathy states that the way an individual is able to apprehend movement is “through experiencing it vicariously” (p.147). While individuals become aware of other bodies in motion, they inevitably feel a connection and respond through materialising as to what it would be like to perform the motion.
Profeta looks at where kinaesthetic empathy derives from, and how one can increase their kinaesthetic empathy. The fundamental concept where kinaesthetic empathy derives from is that if one has a body of their own, they have the basic instrument to become aware of other bodies in motion. Kinaesthetic empathy was further proven by the scientific discovery of the mirror neuron. The mirror neuron shows that when individuals watch a body in motion, neurons associated with their bodies performing that same motion are firing silently in the brain (p.147). However, the mirror neuron does not validate kinaesthetic empathy in its entirety. Mirror neurons only describe the physical behaviour, and does not expand on any emotional behaviour or associations that may come as a result. The resultant emotional behaviour remains subjective to the individual, depending on their values, circumstance and past experiences. Science explains that one way to increase kinaesthetic empathy is to experience the movement for yourself. This research derives from a study that demonstrated when dancers viewed movement within the form they were trained in, their neural activity was much higher. Therefore, scientists came to a conclusion that kinaesthetic empathy clearly increases with a shared base of body knowledge. Subsequently, science explains that one way to increase kinaesthetic empathy is to experience the movement for yourself, and increase the shared base of body knowledge (p.147).
When I think of the word empathy, I imagine putting myself in another person’s situation and imagine what they have gone through or are going through. However, what is interesting about kinaesthetic empathy is that it appears to happen subconsciously. I do not need to make a conscious effort to make a connection with the body in movement. However I feel I need to make a conscious effort in order to be empathetic to a situation, especially if it’s a situation of unfamiliarity. It’s fascinating to discover that there are different types of empathy, and how kinaesthetic empathy can occur at such a subconscious level.
Why does delivering and recognising motion always appear to happen at a subconscious level?