Edited by Paul Sopčák, Massimo Salgaro and J. Berenike Herrmann
[Scientific Study of Literature 6:1] 2016
► pp. 59–86
The role of empathy in the knowledge building of eighth grade girls as they reflect on their experiences with literature
This study focused on the role that empathy played in the knowledge building of 7 eighth grade readers. Participants met for twenty sessions over the course of a school year to reflect on their experiences empathizing with characters in their favorite works of literature. These reflections led to the generation of social themes. The girls worked to advance these themes by extending, contesting, and evaluating ideas presented.
In this community, the girls’ attempts to empathize with characters were foundational for analyzing actions and intentions of people. Empathy was also used as a tool in their talk as the girls imagined perspectives very different from their own. This resulted in new self knowledge because hearing different perspectives led them to expand their thinking. Results suggest a role for the sociocognitive benefits of engaging in literature and developing students’ capacity for empathy in Language Arts instruction.