A study has tied empathy to creativity, suggesting that those who can become more empathetic can also open their minds to new ideas. The study identifies common traits between creativity and empathy; should you possess these traits, they may together thrive off one another and offer you a more positive experience in life. The study also shows that by teaching our children to become more empathetic, it can also improve learning outcomes. (1,2)

Similarities Between Empathy And Creativity

According to the study there are many similarities between empathy and creativity including: (2)

  • Unusual perceptual and personal openness
  • Resistance to closure
  • Non-judgementality
  • Egoless state of flexible ego-control
  • Low defensiveness
  • A desire to work beyond the boundaries of self

They believe if you can teach children to become more empathetic you can increase these traits, allowing them to become more creative. (2)

Empathy And Creativity For Design And Technology

According to the University of Cambridge study with Design and Technology (D&T), students aged 13 and 14 used a set of engineering design thinking tools to enhance creative thinking and encourage empathy to solve real-world problems. The students in the group with access to these tools showed significant increases in creativity scoring 78% higher than the students who did not use the tools. (1,2)

When scored using the psychometric Torrance test of creative thinking (TTCT) to examine emotional or cognitive empathy, the group also scored higher for things such as ‘open-mindedness’. Researchers feel this indicates empathy contributed to their creativity scores. (1,2)

Empathy And Creativity Awaken Something

“We clearly awakened something in these pupils by encouraging them to think about the thoughts and feelings of others,” says Dr Helen Demetriou, an affiliated lecturer in psychology and education at the Faculty of Education involved in the study. “The research shows not only that it is possible to teach empathy, but that by doing so we support the development of children’s creativity, and their wider learning.” (1)

There was also evidence boys and girls using the tools went against gender stereotypes. Boys scored 64% higher in emotional expression by the end of the school year, while girls showed a 62% increase in cognitive empathy with improved perspective-taking. (1,2)

Teaching For Empathy

“Teaching for empathy has been problematic despite being part of the D&T National Curriculum for over two decades,” says Bill Nicholl Senior Lecturer in Design and Technology Education.  “This evidence suggests that it is a missing link in the creative process, and vital if we want education to encourage the designers and engineers of tomorrow.” (1)

Emotional Process Of Creativity

The study authors explain creativity is an emotional process that can result in “original, insightful and useful ideas.” They believe if students are provided emotional license in creative projects, they can relax their controls so they can find balance between self and non-self. This creates an interesting process allowing them to “explore, create, evaluate”. The open-mindedness gained from empathy allows the creative process to thrive which offers a very positive outlook for the designers of the future. (2)

Nicholl also notes teaching children to empathize contributes to building a more appreciative society making it easier to see each other’s perspectives. “Surely that is something we want education to do,” he says. (1)

Meditation can help improve empathy. Click here to download Dr. Partha Nandi’s FREE 7-day guided meditation journey. 


  1. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2021/02/210202192751.htm
  2. https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/1365480221989500 

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