Does Empathy Make a Difference in the Classroom?

In a fascinating new study from the University of Cambridge, empathy was found to be a factor in enhancing creativity. Students were asked to design an asthma treatment kit for young children, and the researchers found that those who had integrated empathy into their learning and their design challenge were more creative than were those who had not.

Bill Nicholl and Helen Demetriou have conducted the study and have created an initiative called Designing Our Tomorrow.

As Demetriou explains in an interview with CNN,

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“Empathy is a form of creativity in its own right — it involves imagination. Broadly speaking, there are two types of empathy: cognitive, or thinking about things from another’s perspective; and emotional/affective, feeling along with the other person. With creativity you also have this cognitive side and emotional side, and if you are designing a product with someone else’s needs in mind, it is important to project yourself into the other’s world. The two really go hand in hand.”

Later in the interview he explains that:

“We need to keep reminding children to always think about things from someone else’s perspective. How are they feeling? What are they thinking that made them behave like that?

Reading helps, too. There is lots of research that shows that books can elicit empathy, and conversation about the characters and stories helps children see what it is like to experience life as another person.”


James Fishman has been involved in the world of online magazines for more than 15 years. He helped launch Sunstone Online and continues to improve the magazine as site editor and administrator. His writing focuses primarily business and technology. To be in touch with James, feel free to contact him at james[at]

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