Developing empathy can boost your creativity.

A new research suggests that if you learn to empathise with others, it measurably improves your creativity, and it could potentially lead to several other beneficial learning outcomes

The findings are from a year-long University of Cambridge study with Design and Technology (D&T) Year-IX pupils, aged 13 to 14, at two inner London schools. Pupils at one school spent the year following curriculum-prescribed lessons. The other group’s D&T lessons used a set of engineering design thinking tools which aim to foster students’ ability to think creatively and to engender empathy, while solving real-world problems.

Both sets of pupils were assessed for creativity at both the start and end of the school year, using the well-established psychometric test, called the Torrance Test of Creative Thinking. The results showed a statistically significant increase in creativity among pupils at the intervention school, where the thinking tools were used. At the start of the year, the creativity scores of pupils in the control school, which followed the standard curriculum, were 11 per cent higher than those at the intervention school. By the end, however, the situation had completely changed, with creativity scores among the intervention group 78 per cent higher than the control group.

The researchers also examined specific categories within the Torrance Test that are indicative of emotional or cognitive empathy, such as ‘emotional expressiveness’ and ‘open-mindedness’.

Pupils from the intervention school again scored much higher in these categories, indicating that a marked improvement in empathy was driving the overall creativity scores.

The study’s authors suggest that encouraging empathy not only improves creativity, but can deepen pupils’ general engagement with learning.