Experiences that create empathy

Part
01
of five
Part
01

Experiences that create empathy - technology

A Stanford University project titled "Becoming Homeless" used virtual reality to guide people through the experience of homelessness. A Benefit Studio project named "Project Empathy" composed of suggestive and remarkable experiences of individuals operating in the field of journalism, entertainment, and technology.

BECOMING HOMELESS
OVERVIEW
  • Scenes include the participant searching for items in their apartment to sell to pay for the rent, sheltering at a public bus stop, and similar scenes.

RESULTS
  • Researchers noted that participants exhibit lasting positive perceptions toward homeless individuals in comparison to other people who either observed the narrative or interacted with the two-dimensional version.
  • The researchers believe that the participants are more inclined to sign a petition in favor of affordable housing.
  • According to Jamil Zaki, who acts as an assistant professor of psychology, the research has proven that empathy is not an inherent trait, but a condition that could be worked on, turned off and on diverse situations.
  • In a study, 82% of individuals that went through the VR experience supported affordable housing compared to 67% who read the narrative.


PROJECT EMPATHY
OVERVIEW
  • The films are arranged to induce empathy via first-person experience, ranging from being a youth within the prison system in the United States to an isolated widow in India.
  • The films enable the participants to have profound physical and emotional experiences of the countless prison inmates through the use of technology.

RESULTS
  • Project Empathy improves understanding from the public of the experiences prisoners go through in the US prison system.
  • It encourages a more robust and effective conversation on the importance of prison reform.
  • The apparent success of the films' ability to improve empathy enabled Dream Corps to utilize the Day of Empathy to bring the Project Empathy experience to the U.S. Congress to allow the lawmakers to experience the prison system.
  • Through a measure of the influence the films have on a person's empathy, researchers can comprehend their capacity to produce modifications at both a societal and individual level.


MY SKY IS FALLING
OVERVIEW
  • The Harmony Institute and The Empathy Lab worked together on the project and utilized virtual reality to permit participants to immerse themselves in storytelling.

RESULTS
Part
02
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Part
02

Experiences that create empathy - non-technology

Two examples of experiences that have created empathy that didn't use technology are the Nob Hill overpriced grocery store and the Cost of Poverty Experience. Those experiences were created to foster empathy for people who live in poverty.

Non-Technology Experiences That Have Fostered Empathy

Nob Hill Overpriced Grocery Store

1. Overview

  • Tipping Point Community, a nonprofit focused on fighting poverty, created a real-life poverty experience at a grocery store in San Francisco's Nob Hill neighborhood.
  • The grocery store poverty experience was part of an ad campaign, but that experience was real and showed people's genuine reactions to the experience.
  • The purpose of the simulated poverty experience was to show people what it feels like to pay for food items with the budget of a person living in poverty.
  • To create that experience, Tipping Point Community "temporarily implemented . . . higher prices in a" grocery store that reflected the price of those items for people who live in poverty. For example, an item that costs $4.88 requires over 1% of "weekly take-home pay" for a San Franciscan who lives in poverty. Yet, that same $4.88 item is the equivalent of a person earning San Francisco's average salary ($150,000) paying $23.51.
  • When shoppers checked out with their items, the clerk told them the higher prices that reflected the equivalent of what someone living in poverty pays based on their earnings.
  • The shoppers' reactions upon hearing those higher prices were filmed and can be seen in this video.
  • Tipping Point Community's CEO described the experience in stating the following: "We thought this was a compelling way to help more people start to understand what it’s like to live on the [poverty] line and encourage them to take action."

2. Results

  • Quantitative results weren't published for this experience, but qualitative results were ascertainable through the statements the shoppers made upon hearing the inflated prices of their items.
  • Collectively, the qualitative results of the experience clearly showed that the shoppers were stunned, appalled, and upset about the prices quoted for their items. The statements from the shoppers (which we transcribed from the video) upon hearing the inflated prices are included in the following findings.
  • "Sixty-two dollars, what happened?"
  • "I just want to see the prices of everything because I think that everything is wrong."
  • "Eighteen dollars?"
  • "I don't think that's right."
  • "That tea is not twenty-five dollars."
  • Those statements clearly show that the experience was very effective in showing people what it feels like to shop on the budget of a person living in poverty.

Cost of Poverty Experience

1. Overview

  • The Cost of Poverty Experience (COPE) simulates what daily life is like for American families that live in poverty.
  • The COPE was created by the nonprofit Think Tank.
  • According to the organization, the COPE "is a [three]-hour interactive event that offers a glimpse into the lives of low-income individuals and families living in the community."
  • The COPE allows people across the U.S. to experience the following: (1) Obstacles faced by people living in poverty; (2) Decisions that people living in poverty make; (3) Ramifications that families living in poverty experience; and (4) How community-wide systems and policies work for and against families living in poverty.
  • Through the experience, "individuals assume a new identity and walk through a series of encounters with the situations and institutions commonly facing" people living in poverty.
  • Real-life stories are shared during the experience, which are based on stories shared by poor families from Dayton, Ohio.
  • Running the COPE usually requires between 15 and 20 volunteers who role-play representatives that the poor routinely deal with from institutions such as nonprofits and businesses.
  • As a simulated experience, a large location is needed to host the COPE (about 3,000 square feet). The cost of the COPE is between $1,500 and $2,100 (plus travel costs for the event facilitator). Between 25 and 120 individuals can participate in a single COPE.

2. Results

  • The COPE is hosted by various entities across the U.S. on an ongoing basis and, as such, there weren't quantitative results of the experience. However, we found statements from people who participated in the session because they show the impact of the experience and its effectiveness. Those statements are included in the following findings.
  • It “gave us a chance to have a conversation about poverty where we could go through the experience and look at it from a lot of different vantage points.”
  • "It made me look at things I take for granted and notice that not everyone has that privilege."
  • We all immediately saw that this was a very powerful way to ground ourselves in the complex issues people face every day, and to eliminate some assumptions people might have when they’ve never experienced poverty."

Research Strategy

We identified the two experiences included above by reviewing numerous articles about events/exhibits geared towards fostering a sense of empathy within people. The vast majority of those articles pertained either to experiences at museums or ones that used technology, both of which were outside the scope of this request. Accordingly, we proceeded with our research by continuing to review even more articles until we found experiences that matched all the requested criteria. Examples of sources we consulted throughout our research included The New York Times, Facebook, and the Denver post. Ultimately, we were able to find the two experiences included above through articles published by Fast Company and Made To Flourish. Both empathy experiences are based in the U.S., though the research we conducted was global in scope.
Part
03
of five
Part
03

Experiences that create empathy - Museums

Three examples of experiences that have created empathy in a museum setting are the projects titled "A Mile In My Shoes," "A Thousand And One Books," and "War Children in Conversation". Below these examples are further discussed.

A MILE IN MY SHOES

OVERVIEW
  • An Empathy Museum project titled "A Mile In My Shoes" is a shoe shop where participants are encouraged to work in someone else shoes.
  • In "A Mile In My Shoes," the participants walk in someone else's shoes; they then listen to the voice of the shoe owner as that person tells their story.
  • The stories range from that of a war veteran to a Syrian refugee.
  • The participants are immersed in a physical and empathetic experience.

RESULTS
  • The participants' reactions varied from being inspired by the experience feeling the desire to be more emphatic towards others.

A THOUSAND AND ONE BOOKS

OVERVIEW
  • An Empathy Museum project titled "A Thousand And One Books" is a "crowd-sourced traveling library" furnished with a thousand and one books donated by people who love the books and desire to share them.
  • Visitors can choose from the dedication written by the donors, while the book's title and author are hidden.
  • Once they finish reading, they can pass the book to a family member or friend or leave it in on a bench in the park for a total stranger to pick up.

RESULTS
  • Visitors were ecstatic because they were able to read these books recommended to them.

HISTORICAL EMPATHY

OVERVIEW
  • Historical Empathy involves influencing people through a broader understanding of historical figures and the context, motives, emotions, and beliefs that guided their activities.
  • The Historical Empathy project was conducted in Museon, an educational museum located at The Hague.
  • The goal of the project was to assist students in empathizing with children of diverse cultural backgrounds that lived through World War II (WWII).
  • The students worked in groups during the 90-minute workshop writing and acting out an imaginary dialogue between a journalist and two characters featured in the exhibition.
  • Students had to investigate life stories or choose a theme and had to documents the events that happened in the life of the characters.
RESULTS
  • The participants broadened their understanding of what war involves and the personal struggles people go through.
Part
04
of five
Part
04

Research techniques used to create empathy - 1

The first-person experience technique and immersive and engaging experience technique are two experience design techniques used to create empathy.

Creating empathy through the first-person experience

Creating empathy through immersive and engaging experiences

Part
05
of five
Part
05

Research techniques used to create empathy - 2

Empathy mapping and contextual inquiry are research techniques and methods that design teams are using to create empathy and make people care about a topic.

EMPATHY MAPPING

  • An empathy map is a visualization tool for designers to understand the "why" behind user wants and needs.
  • Creating an empathy map will force product teams to focus on building a product for the people who will use it.
  • It describes what the user says, thinks, does, and feels.
  • Empathy maps can also categorize and make sense of qualitative research, discover gaps in your current knowledge, and create personas by aligning and grouping empathy maps covering individual users.
  • When empathy maps are filled by the user themselves, it can be used as a secondary data source and the interviewer can glean into the thoughts and feelings from the interviewee that otherwise would have remained hidden.
  • When based on real data, empathy maps can remove bias from design teams, discover weaknesses in the research made, uncover user needs that they themselves may not be even aware, understand the user's behavior, and will serve as a guide towards meaningful innovation.
  • The steps in building an empathy map include defining scope and goals, gathering materials, collecting research, individually generating sticky notes for each quadrant, converging to cluster and synthesize, and polishing and planning.

CONTEXTUAL INQUIRY

  • Contextual Inquiry is a variety of field studies where researchers observe people in their natural environment and study their everyday tasks.
  • This is done by not just listening to others but by observing their behavior and minimizing interference as much as possible.
  • The ultimate goal is to gather observations so that the design team can truly empathize with their users and have a holistic view of their perspectives.
  • Interaction Design Foundation noted that using photo and video user-based studies in a natural setting will help design teams to refresh their memory at a later time with the thing people said, behaviors identified, and the feelings evoked.
  • In conducting interviews with users in their working environment, it is best to avoid asking too many questions.
  • During interviews, it is advisable to become an attentive listener, and practice mirroring not parroting back answers.
  • In preparing the design team, it is best to limit the number of researchers to 2-3 so that it will not be too distracting or intimidating to the person being interviewed.
  • The team should have permission to take photos or videos and probably sign a waiver with the interviewees for legal compliance.
  • The head, heart, hand framework will help researchers in organizing and making inferences and insights from observations.
  • Head means thinking about the thoughts of the interviewees and what are the mental models that explain their behavior.
  • Heart refers to the feelings and emotions shown during the inquiry while hand refers to their actual behavior and body language.
Sources
Sources

From Part 05
Quotes
  • " The goal of contextual inquiry is to gather enough observations that you can truly begin to empathize with your users and their perspectives."
  • "An empathy map is a visualization tool used to articulate what a product team knows about the user. This tool helps a product team build a broader understanding of the “why” behind user needs and wants. It forces product teams to shift their focus from the product they want to build, to the people who will use the product."
Quotes
  • "As their name suggests, empathy maps simply help us build empathy with our end users. When based on real data and when combined with other mapping methods, they can: Remove bias from our designs and align the team on a single, shared understanding of the user Discover weaknesses in our research"
  • "Uncover user needs that the user themselves may not even be aware of Understand what drives users’ behaviors Guide us towards meaningful innovation"
Quotes
  • "Photographing or recording target users, like other empathizing methods, can help you uncover needs that people have which they may or may not be aware of. It can help guide your innovation efforts, identify the right end users to design for, and discover emotions that guide behaviors."