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Perspective Taking For Kids (and Parents)

| Two levels of perception | The importance of perspective-taking | Deficits | How to develop perspective-taking skills |

What is perspective-taking

Perspective-taking is the practice of trying to infer and understand another person’s feelings, thoughts, and viewpoint without directly experiencing it ​1​.

Perspective-taking skills are not only important for children, but also for parents and other adults.

There are three types of perspective-taking.

Perceptual perspective-taking (or visual perspective taking) is the inference a child makes about how another person sees, hears, or perceives something from their location.

Conceptual perspective-taking, also called cognitive perspective taking, is the ability to recognize and understand the thoughts, desires, attitudes, or plans of others​2​.

Affective perspective-taking, or social sensitivity, is the ability to identify and understand another person’s emotions​3​.

Children start developing the ability to take on the feelings and perspectives of others between the ages of three to seven ​4,5​.

The ability to draw a correct inference appears to develop earlier than the ability to justify it​6​.

girl points at others direction

Two levels of perception

There are two levels of perception that develop at different times​7​.

Level 1 – visual perception

Children as young as preschoolers understand how different visual perceptions work. They know that the only way to see an object is to look in its direction without blocking your vision with obstructions. Additionally, they understand that they may see different objects from others and vice versa.

Level 2 – knowledge

As children grow, they begin to understand that the process of perspective-taking is an active, interpretative, and constructive activity. People may interpret an ambiguous event differently depending on their preexisting experiences, biases, or expectations.

The importance of perspective-taking

Taking others’ perspectives is essential to our daily lives. Both parents and children can benefit from learning this valuable skill.

Social interactions

Understanding others’ viewpoints is a crucial social skill that children need in order to make and sustain friendships​8​.

Affective perspective-taking ability is essential to child development since they allow children to conceptually understand the roles friendships, authorities, peers, and themselves play​9​.

The ability to decipher other people’s thoughts, beliefs, and desires is critical for understanding their behavior, interpreting their words, and predicting what they will do next. 

When children are less capable of affective perspective taking, they tend to miss subtle social cues and cannot interpret the need for pro-social behavior​10​.

Altruism

Altruistic behaviors such as sharing candy with needy peers or donating money to a charity have been found to have a significant association with cognitive perspective-taking.

When children consider another person’s perspective, they can understand their feelings and recognize their need for help​11​.

Empathy 

The experience of empathy is feeling the same emotion that another is experiencing, or very close to it. It is feeling together with the other person.

By understanding others’ perspectives, older children are able to recognize other people’s feelings, thoughts, and behaviors, which is the basis for empathy. These children feel more empathy for others than others who don’t​12​.

Interpersonal problem solving

Grasping the perspectives of others is essential for interpretation, problem-solving, and reaching consensus​13​.

The ability to take a social perspective will enable children to adopt more elaborate strategies for resolving interpersonal conflicts ​14–16​.

Emotional regulation and behavior management

Individuals who are easily angered and remain that way for an extended period of time create significant problems for themselves and those around them​17​.

Aggression and violence have been widely attributed to anger as a precursor​18​.

Perspective-taking facilitates emotion regulation by allowing one to perceive interpersonal provocation from other people’s viewpoints that do not lead to hostility or blame.

Prevent bias and stereotype

Every individual is unique and has a unique point of view. We view each other differently than we view ourselves, and sharing the same environment doesn’t always lead to the same conclusions.

If we insist that the perspective we hold is the only one that is appropriate, social conflict results. It is important to learn to look at things from different perspectives in order to bring people together instead of pushing them further apart​19​.

Perspective-taking is found to reduce stereotypic biases consciously and subconsciously​20​.

Creativity

Seeing things from another angle is a way of unlocking the potential of team creativity.

According to research, diverse teams that engage in perspective-taking team activities generate more creative ideas than homogeneous teams​21​.

Parenting

Teaching new skills to children is important, but it is also essential to practice them ourselves.

Whenever parents discipline children to change their behavior, they are trying to shift the children’s perspective so that it agrees with theirs. Conflicts and power struggles often result if the children’s viewpoints are ignored​22​.

In order for our children to accept our viewpoint, we need to show them that we understand theirs first and that we have taken it into consideration.

Deficits

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)

Some children with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder have a more difficult time taking on others’ points of view. When facing issues, they use less social perspective-taking when they define problems, identify feelings and evaluate the outcomes​27​.

Autism spectrum disorder

Autistic children often have a difficult time understanding other people’s beliefs and desires. Several studies indicate that this could be due to a lack of level 2 visual perspective-taking skills​28​.

How to develop perspective-taking skills

Empathic parenting

By encouraging their children to see from others’ viewpoints, parents help improve perspective-taking abilities in children​23​.

Comforted by others

The comforting skills of both mothers and liked peers were associated with the child’s affective perspective-taking ability​24​.

Role-playing

Teenagers who role-play can significantly improve their ability to take on the perspective of another person in social situations. 

In perspective-taking training, adolescents are coached in social skills and act in multiple roles in typical problem situations. These teens are more likely to be able to resolve interpersonal conflict successfully and show empathy for others​25​.

Visual feedback

Watching themselves on film is a great way to increase perspective-taking behavior in children. Through videotapes focused on them instead of the other actor, they are able to see things from the other view, allowing them to shift their attributions and perspectives​26​.

References

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