Can you boost empathy through online training?

Published 07 June 2016

High levels of empathy can help individuals do well in romantic relationships, as parents, as health care providers, as work supervisors, as teachers, and as coaches.

Now researchers at the University of New England are trying to discover if empathy can be taught online.


Associate Professor John Malouff from the School of Cognitive, Behavioural and Social Sciences says he and UNE honours student Emily Teding van Berkhout, evaluated in-person empathy training programs that attempt to teach individuals the meaning of empathy, to recognise emotions in others and to take the perspective of others.

“We looked at 18 training programs involving over 1000 participants. Our meta-analysis showed that in-person empathy training programs are reasonably effective overall.”

He says there are different methods used to teach empathy, including instructions, examples, rehearsal, and feedback.

Assoc/Prof. Malouff pointed out that in-person empathy training is costly and rarely available and says ‘there is a need for another way to provide empathy training.’

Assoc/Prof. Malouff and co-investigators Eva Sentas, Ros Redshaw, Bernadette Harris and Caitlin Johnson are now looking for participants for a study that will help determine whether individuals can boost their empathy through brief online training.

Information about the study is available at