Mesurado20 St20 Antonys20 Lecture
Jul 7, 2022

Game-like Interventions Aim to Help Kids Flourish in Latin America with Dr. Belén Mesurado (video)

Two online programs with an adventure theme promote prosocial behavior among children and adolescents in Latin America

By Templeton Staff with Luana DeBorst

This recording is from a series of public seminars given by scholars lecturing at St Antony’s College, University of Oxford as part of the Templeton World Charity Foundation (TWCF) supported project, Education, Purpose and Human Flourishing in Uncertain Times (EPHF). EPHF explores new understandings of education, purpose, and human flourishing through annual convenes and publications.

With TWCF funding, Dr. Belén Mesurado leads a team using game-like, interactive digital modalities to encourage human flourishing among children and adolescents.  Play the above video to learn more.

In the context of vast inequalities and the high percentage of people living in poverty across Latin America, Mesurado's presentation for the EPHF project examines the fostering of prosocial behavior as an avenue toward human flourishing.

Prosocial behavior (PSB) can have positive impacts on both the individual and society. Studies show that fostering empathy, gratitude, forgiveness, and positive emotions in children and adolescents can inhibit aggressive behavior, improve the acceptance and integration of diversity, and enhance meaningful interpersonal relations while accelerating the development of social abilities and sense of community.

 In line with psychologist Dr. Nancy Eisenberg, Mesurado defines PSB as “voluntary action aimed to benefit others”. She points to varying forms (high and low cost) and motivations including:

  • Approval-seeking behavior
  • Actions as a response to another’s distress
  • Altruism, which arises from a real concern for others

Altruistic behavior, Mesurado notes, is very important because it comes as a result of internalized moral values, and is not motivated by reward. She points out that PSB is negatively associated with aspects like aggressive behavior and depression. The argument for the promotion of PSB, therefore, comes into line with the promotion of human flourishing more broadly.

Mesurado then turns to one example of an intervention that targets the promotion of PSB in adolescents across five Latin American countries: Argentina, Colombia, Mexico, Peru, and Uruguay. The TWCF-funded Hero! and Little Hero!  are two short, online programs designed to promote prosocial behavior in participants. Several of the activities contained in the programs are structured in the form of adventure games led by a "wise guide" to make the experience entertaining for the participants.

  • Hero was developed, tested, and targeted at Spanish-speaking adolescents between the ages of 12 and 15
  • Little Hero was developed, tested, and targeted at Spanish-speaking children between 9 to 11 years of age
  • Hero is structured in five linked modules for promoting empathy, gratitude, positive emotions, forgiveness, and prosocial behavior
  • Little Hero includes the same modules developed in Hero with the exception of forgiveness.

Between 2019 and 2020, the Hero Program was applied to 3234 adolescents, and Little Hero was applied to 1934 children across the 5 targeted Latin American countries. The results, as Mesurado presents, show that the adolescents who participated in the intervention program demonstrated greater prosocial behavior towards strangers, friends, and family members than the participants in the control group. The results also indicate that the program was effective in promoting empathy, positive emotions, and attitudes of forgiveness against an aggressor. Collectively, the results suggest an important role to be played by such programs in the promotion of socio-emotional virtues among Latin American children and adolescents.

Dr. Belén Mesurado, is a Member of the Philosophy Institute and Professor of Universidad Austral and Associate researcher at National Scientific and Technical Research Council (CONICET). Her research is focused on Positive Psychology issues, with a special focus on positive psychological development in children and adolescents. She studies the factors that promote positive mental states such as the experience of flow and prosocial or collaborative behaviors.

Dr. David Johnson, Junior Proctor, University of Oxford, Reader in Comparative and International Education, and Fiona Gatty, DPhil., Research Project Coordinator and TWCF Fellow in Comparative Education, are Principal Investigator and Co-Investigator of the EPHF ProjectLuana DeBorst, Research Assistant, University of Oxford, assists with the project.