"Empathy is the ability to imagine yourself in someone else's position and to intuit what that person is feeling. It is the ability to stand in others' shoes, to see with their eyes, and to feel with their hearts." (Daniel H. Pink, A Whole New Mind)
Our relationships (the good ones, anyway) are built on empathy, which can be shown through cooperative behavior and appropriate responses to other people's emotions. On the other hand, impairments in our ability to empathize are signs of mental conditions such as autism, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia.
The big nature versus nurture debate begins when it comes to empathy (i.e. is it your early life experiences that determine how empathetic you are in the future or is it your genes?), but some studies have shown that it is moderately heritable. In one study, they found 11 (albeit not statistically significant) gene loci that could be associated with self-reported empathy (via the empathy quotient, or EQ). Read the full study here to get a better understanding: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/?term=29527006
Are your genes nudging you to become a more empathetic person? Find out on Genomelink!