MINDREADING AND EMPATHY AS PREDICTORS OF PRO-SOCIAL BEHAVIOUR
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Social understanding is usually conceptualized as consisting of understanding emotions (i.e., empathy) and understanding the other’s mental states (i.e., theory of mind or mindreading). Both these aspects of social understanding are hypothesized to be related to pro-social orientation. Therefore, the purpose of the presented study is to examine whether theory of mind or empathy is the stronger predictor of pro-social orientation. As a secondary aim, the authors also explored the question of gender differences as an important differentiating factor in both theory of mind and empathy. 197 preadolescents aged 11 to 15 participated in the study. Participants filled out two tests of theory of mind skills, three empathy questionnaires and the pro-social orientation was determined by peer-nominated questionnaire. The results corroborated the idea that the higher the social understanding, the higher the pro-social orientation. Moreover, theory of mind predicted pro-social behaviour better than empathy. Girls outperformed boys in both empathy and mindreading measures. Theoretical and practical implications of these findings are discussed.
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