Virtual Reality Not for “Being Someone” but for “Being in Someone Else’s Shoes”: Avoiding Misconceptions in Empathy Enhancement
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Frontiers Research Foundation
EmpathyEmpathy enhancementMoral enhancementSympathyVirtual reality ethics
Lara F and Rueda J (2021) Virtual Reality Not for “Being Someone” but for “Being in Someone Else’s Shoes”: Avoiding Misconceptions in Empathy Enhancement. Front. Psychol. 12:741516. doi: [10.3389/fpsyg.2021.741516]
SponsorshipState Research Agency of the Spanish Government PID2019-104943RB-I00; La Caixa Foundation LCF/BQ/DR20/11790005
In this article, we show that Ramirez et al.’s ethical rejection of empathy enhancement through VR is based on confusion. First, we show that this misunderstanding stems from the conception of empathy-enhancing simulations solely as failed attempts at “being someone else,” along with ignoring the crucial difference between the psychological perspective-taking processes of imagineother and imagine-self. Then, having overcome that misconception, we argue that the ethical misgivings about the use of VR to promote empathy should disappear and that these projects have greater potential for behavioural change than purely sympathy-focused interventions.