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Empathy Gets the Girl

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Boys who display high cognitive empathy levels – the capacity to comprehend the emotions of another person – attract an average of 1.8 more female friendships than low empathy counterparts, according to a study of almost 2000 Year 10 students in Queensland and NSW published in the Journal of Personality (

The study, led by Prof Joseph Ciarrochi of the Australian Catholic University, is the first to examine the extent that adolescent males and females select empathetic classmates as friends. It found that girls are more likely to nominate empathetic boys as friends.

In contrast, girls with empathetic qualities “did not attract a greater number of opposite sex friends”. Despite this, these girls reported an overall feeling of friendship support.

“The more friendship nominations a boy received from either boys or girls, the more they felt supported by their friends; the number of friendship nominations received by girls, in contrast, had no effect on their felt support by friends,” Ciarrochi said. “Regardless of the quantity of friendship nominations, empathy was linked to more supportive friendships for both males and females.”

The researchers asked students to nominate up to five of their closest male and five closest female friends in the...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.