Evidence That It Works
A review of school based interventions suggests that to respond with empathy, students need to have an understanding of emotions and the ability to take other’s perspectives.
For example, in one candy-sharing study with children and teens ages 6–17, researchers told participants that they could select as many candies as they wanted, but that the next child would only get to pick from the remaining candy. Children tended to show more empathy and, in turn, share more candy with the next child when the researchers provided information about the next child’s emotional state. This research suggests that we may encourage more empathy and altruism from others when we are willing to share and learn more about each other.
Why Does It Matter?
Empathy helps students cultivate strong relationships with their classmates, encouraging helping behavior, sharing, and a willingness to comfort others. Student empathy can also contribute to a greater sense of safety at school. Research also indicates that an increase in empathy can decrease bullying and aggression among children.
Empathy has also been considered as a driver of morality because research links empathy with altruistic behavior. Thus, empathy can help us to break away from a focus on self and to respond to the needs of others.