When we talk about executive functions, we’re usually talking about distinct, discrete skills that are easy to get our arms around. Empathy, while often lumped in with executive functions, is not a singular skill, but a package of skills that pulls from multiple parts of the brain. Children who are empathetic can form and sustain friendships, are more likely to behave well in class, and are less likely to engage in aggressive, antisocial, or criminal behavior.
What is empathy?
Empathy is often defined as the ability to identify with the suffering of another. This definition, however, is only partly correct. Human beings have the capacity for three kinds of empathy: