16/04/2015 10:57 BST | Updated 16/06/2015 10:12 BST

Popular Children Are 'Mind Readers' Who Tune In To Other Kids' Needs


Popular children are 'mind readers,' according to a new study.

The 'coolest' kids have a special empathy trait that allows them to tune in to what other children want, think and feel.

The findings come from an Australian study that delved into why certain kids become popular with other children.

Virginia Slaughter, professor of psychology at the University of Queensland, said: "Our study suggests that understanding others' mental perspectives may facilitate the kind of interactions that help children become or remain popular."

The ability to find out what other people are thinking and feeling is called 'theory of the mind' and helps people distinguish, for instance, between sarcasm and insult.

The research looked across the findings of 20 different studies involving 2,096 children aged from two to 10 years from Asia, Australia, Europe, and North America.

Researchers found that understanding others' mental perspectives is important both for making friends in the early school years and for maintaining friendships as children grow older.

The study also found that the link was weaker for boys than girls, perhaps reflecting gender differences in how children relate to each other.

For example, girls' friendships often have higher levels of intimacy and the need to resolve conflicts more often, which may mean that their interactions require more sensitivity.

Professor Slaughter said: "Our findings suggest that training children to be sensitive to others' thoughts and feelings may improve their relationships with peers.

"This may be particularly important for children who are struggling with friendship issues, such as children who are socially isolated."

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