Digital empathy

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Digital empathy is the use of the core principles of empathycompassion, cognition, and emotion – in designing technology to enhance user experience.


Digital empathy finds its roots in empathy, a human behaviour explained by Cognitive and behavioral neuroscientists as, “a multifaceted construct used to account for the capacity to share and understand the thoughts and feelings of others." [1] The neurological basis for empathy was found in a study that discovered mirror neurons and  studied a format for action and perception resulting in imitation that facilitates empathy.[2]

Digital Empathy[edit]

At the centre of empathy creation is communication. [3] The society’s communication patterns are altering, both positively and negatively, due to the rapid adoption of social and mobile technologies.[4][5]Technology usage has transformed human interactions into digital conversations where people now have the ability to instantly share thoughts, feelings, and behaviours via digital channels in a few seconds. It has been observed and researched that the digital conversations threaten the appropriate expression of empathy, largely as a result of psychological disinhibition [6] - a term that broadly explains various underlying reasons that increase the probability of reduced empathy in online communications. Research has shown that the shift away from face-to-face communication has caused a decline in the social-emotional skills of youth and proven that "generations raised on technology" are actually becoming less empathic. [7] The impact of these altered communications and social behavior is being explored under a new term - digital empathy. Terry & Cain (2015) in their research paper “The Emerging Issue of Digital Empathy” explain digital empathy as the “traditional empathic characteristics such as concern and caring for others expressed through computer-mediated communications.”[8]

The handbook of research on media literacy in the digital age further elaborates on this concept by stating that, “digital empathy explores the ability to analyze and evaluate another’s internal state (empathy accuracy), have a sense of identity and agency (self-empathy), recognize, understand and predict other’s thoughts and emotions (cognitive empathy), feel what others feel (affective empathy), role play (imaginative empathy), and be compassionate to others (empathic concern) via digital media."[9]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Decety J, Yoder KJ (2016-01-02). "Empathy and motivation for justice: Cognitive empathy and concern, but not emotional empathy, predict sensitivity to injustice for others". Social Neuroscience. 11 (1): 1–14. doi:10.1080/17470919.2015.1029593. PMC 4592359. PMID 25768232.
  2. ^ Carr L, Iacoboni M, Dubeau MC, Mazziotta JC, Lenzi GL (April 2003). "Neural mechanisms of empathy in humans: a relay from neural systems for imitation to limbic areas". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 100 (9): 5497–502. Bibcode:2003PNAS..100.5497C. doi:10.1073/pnas.0935845100. PMC 154373. PMID 12682281.
  3. ^ Stiff JB, Dillard JP, Somera L, Kim H, Sleight C (1988-06-01). "Empathy, communication, and prosocial behavior". Communication Monographs. 55 (2): 198–213. doi:10.1080/03637758809376166. ISSN 0363-7751.
  4. ^ Russel D (2015-07-14). "We just don't speak anymore. But we're "talking" more than ever". Attentiv. Retrieved 2019-09-17.
  5. ^ "25th Web Anniversary". Pew Research Center: Internet, Science & Tech. 2014-02-27. Retrieved 2019-09-17.
  6. ^ Suler J (June 2004). "The online disinhibition effect". Cyberpsychology & Behavior. 7 (3): 321–6. doi:10.1089/1094931041291295. PMID 15257832.
  7. ^ Konrath SH, O'Brien EH, Hsing C (May 2011). "Changes in dispositional empathy in American college students over time: a meta-analysis". Personality and Social Psychology Review. 15 (2): 180–98. doi:10.1177/1088868310377395. PMID 20688954.
  8. ^ Terry C, Cain J (May 2016). "The Emerging Issue of Digital Empathy". American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education. 80 (4): 58. doi:10.5688/ajpe80458. PMC 4891856. PMID 27293225.
  9. ^ Yildiz MN, Keengwe J (2015-12-02). Handbook of Research on Media Literacy in the Digital Age. IGI Global. ISBN 978-1-4666-9668-6.