Empathy PhD

Grace O'Shea

Activating Social Empathy

The overarching aim of this research is to investigate a multi-informant perspective of how social empathy can be successfully activated among adolescents. This will inform the ongoing development of a social education programme by the UNESCO Child and Family Research Centre (CFRC), entitled ‘Activating Social Empathy’, which aims to increase students’ empathy levels and prosocial behavior, improve students’ interpersonal relationships and promote positive social action, civic behaviour and civic engagement (UNESCO CFRC, 2017). Creators of this programme have identified the need for further investigation into what is effective and ineffective ‘on the ground’, regarding social empathy education. Activating social empathy in young people is important, as it has the capacity to enhance interpersonal relationships, to cultivate social connectedness and promote civic engagement. Activating empathy plays a vital role in adolescent’s personal and social development and has the potential to produce profound implications for the future of society (UNESCO CFRC, 2017). The researcher proposes that a number of perspectives are investigated; experts in the field of social empathy and empathy education will be consulted, as well as teachers, educational psychologists and adolescents. The question at the centre of this research is; how can we best activate Elizabeth Segal's model of social empathy (pictured below) among young people?