Em­pa­thy and proso­cial de­vel­op­ment

Hyper - - FEATURE -

Em­pa­thy is the abil­ity to take an­other per­son’s per­spec­tive and ex­pe­ri­ence the world as they ex­pe­ri­ence it. Most of us are born with an in­nate ten­dency for em­pa­thy, but even nat­u­rally sen­si­tive, emo­tion­ally per­cep­tive peo­ple can have trou­ble ex­tend­ing it beyond the cir­cle of their im­me­di­ate in­group – a prob­lem in an in­creas­ingly glob­alised world.

VR can help, al­low­ing us to al­most lit­er­ally see the world through an­other per­son’s eyes. In one ex­per­i­ment, a group of re­searchers had white sub­jects in­habit a black avatar in VR, lead­ing to de­creased mea­sures of im­plicit racial bias. In an­other, stu­dents who in­hab­ited a su­per­heroic vir­tual avatar showed an in­creased ten­dency to help ex­per­i­menters pick up their "dropped" pens later on. Whether ei­ther of these ef­fects per­sist in the longterm is an open ques­tion.

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