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Study: How Showing Empathy Can Help Boys Get More Girl Friendships

Jun 10, 2016 03:56 AM EDT

A new Australian study revealed that boys who have more cognitive empathy tend to attract more girl friendships, compared to boys who have lesser cognitive empathy.

The study, published in The Journal of Psychology, is the first study shows how empathy plays a crucial role in adolescent male and female friendships. Researchers defined cognitive empathy as the capacity to comprehend the emotions of another person.

For the study, the researchers enrolled 1,970 students in Year 10 with a median age of 15.7 years. Each participant was asked to name up to five of their closest male friends and five of their closest female friends of the same grade. The researchers also measured the levels of empathy and friendship social support of each participant using what is called the 'Friendship Subscale' of the 'Student Social Support Scale'.

The researchers then discovered that the girls are more inclined to nominate highly empathetic boys as their close friends, while boy do not tend to nominate empathetic girls. They also found out that boys with high empathy attract an average of 1.8 more girl friendship nominations, compared to boys with lower empathy.

Another surprising discovery in the study is that boys felt more supported by their friends if they have received multiple friendship nomination from either of the genders. However, the feelings of support from friends were not affected in girls, no matter how high or low their friendship nominations.

According to the researcher, their study clearly shows how empathy affects the process of selecting and maintaining of friends, especially in adolescence.

"Friends are essential to positive adolescent development. It's well established that in addition to providing companionship, close friendships promote the development of interpersonal skills, learning, and growth. Having friends has also been linked with lower rates of depression and, to people feeling good about themselves," explained Joseph Ciarrochi, professor at the Institute for Positive Psychology and Education at Australian Catholic University, in a statement.

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