Empathetic Children Are Better at Learning

In a study, the least gullible children were the ones who accurately interpreted emotional cues as well as the most verbally capable.


Childhood psychology has long studied how children learn and synthesize information, but less understood is the way children understand adults. Certain negative interactions with adults — such as lying — have been examined at length, while more positive ones — such as attention disorders — have been less understood.

Interested in how children connect language and “theory of mind” (i.e., empathy), researchers in Canada constructed an experiment that set out to connect juvenile empathy with learning. As Science Daily reports: “The participants were first introduced to several different figurines and given some background information about each: Mr. Jones likes carrots; Linda thinks her cat is hiding in the bushes; Polly and Peter have never seen what's inside the box. The children were then asked to theorize about what kind of snack Mr. Jones would want, where Linda would search for her dog and what Polly and Peter would think was inside the box.”

It could be said that childhood psychology may not be so much a field that evolved to understand children as it is to understand adults.

The least gullible children were the ones who accurately interpreted the figurines’ emotions as well as the most verbally capable. Moreover, these children selectively gravitated toward the figurines that were the most reliable.

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