Teaching empathic concern and altruism in the smartphone age


Brian N. Fry & Jason D. Runyan


Numerous studies show empathic concern promotes altruistic motivation and prosocial behavior. Here, we discuss empathic concern, its relation to altruistic motivation, and how empathic concern is invoked in experimental studies. We do this with an eye toward applying laboratory techniques in the classroom, and everyday life, to foster empathic concern and altruistic responding. This goes beyond teaching about empathic concern to setting up conditions that help people experience this psychological state, and its benefits, firsthand. Smartphone-based ecological momentary interventions (EMIs) can help us do this by raising self- and other-awareness, and by promoting empathic states and practices in daily life. While smartphones often pull us away from direct personal interaction, we explore ways of using these devices to redirect our attention to those around us. We end by suggesting that these ways of helping people regularly experience and act upon empathic concern in daily life might help nurture a compassionate disposition.

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