Louise Heffelfinger Peacocke


This research examines children’s levels of cognitive and affective moral empathic responses in an education setting when using either their mother-tongue (MT) versus their non-native tongue (NNT). This between-subjects, mixed-methods design used a small exploratory sample. Quantitative data was generated through Baron-Cohen and Wheelwright’s Empathy Quotient questionnaire (2008) and qualitative data was generated from two audio-recorded class discussions with the same participants. While clearer research is emerging regarding adult’s diminished cognitive, affective, and somatic empathy levels when using their NNT, there has to date been no similar research with children in a learning context. The study is neither generalisable nor offers statistical significance, but nonetheless suggests that more research needs to be conducted in this area, including isolating variables such as gender and socio-economic status of children using MT versus NNT. Additionally, the implications for fostering empathic concern and empathic action in education systems through greater focus on children’s engagement with visual and performing arts and in reading literary fiction are briefly examined.


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