%A Stephanie D. Preston %A Frans B. M. de Waal %T Empathy: Its ultimate and proximate bases %X The empathy literature is characterized by debate regarding the nature of the phenomenon. We propose a unified theory of empathy, divided into ultimate and proximate levels, grounded in the emotional link between individuals. On an ultimate level, emotional linkage supports group alarm, vicariousness of emotions, mother-infant responsiveness, and the modeling of competitors and predators; these exist across species and greatly effect reproductive success. Proximately, emotional linkage arises from a direct mapping of another's behavioral state onto a subject's behavioral representations, which activate responses in the subject. This ultimate and proximate account parsimoniously explains different phylogenetic and ontogenetic levels of empathy. %D 2000 %K emotion; perspective taking; emotional contagion; cognitive empathy; comparative; evolution; altruism; perception-action %L cogprints1042