Empathy isn’t just about being able to vicariously share someone’s feelings on an emotional level— that is affective empathy.
There is another facet, namely cognitive empathy, which is the capacity to know and understand another’s perspective. Put simply, to intellectually put yourself in someone else’s shoes.
Reports from my clients and personal experience have shown that many dark personality types obsessively watch films and television programs, in order to learn ‘normal human responses’ for emotional mimicry. In other words, to develop cognitive empathy.
This does not mean that they have affective empathy. As Decety and associates found, when participants high in psychopathy imagined pain to themselves, brain regions including the anterior insula, right amygdala, anterior midcingulate cortex and somatosensory cortex showed typical response to pain, suggesting that they are sensitive to the thought of pain. However, these regions did not become active when they imagined others in pain.
And this explains why many have reported to me, how dark personality types exhibiting the ‘correct behaviors’ like cuddling after sex or saying the right thing when someone is in distressed, always feels off. In other words, the empathy you think you are receiving from people who only have capacity for cognitive empathy is “fake empathy”, or empathy that is potentially weaponized against you.