Greater Good Science Center: How to Cultivate Empathy?

Humans experience affective empathy from infancy, physically sensing their caregivers’ emotions and often mirroring those emotions. Cognitive empathy emerges later in development, around three to four years of age, roughly when children start to develop an elementary “theory of mind”—that is, the understanding that other people experience the world differently than they do.

 

From these early forms of empathy, research suggests we can develop more complex forms that go a long way toward improving our relationships and the world around us. Here are some of the best research-based practices for nurturing empathy in ourselves and others.