Teaching Children Empathy and Compassion through Virtual Reality Games​

  • TWCF Number:


  • Project Duration:

    June 1, 2020 - July 31, 2022

  • Core Funding Area:

    Character Virtue Development

  • Priority:

    Global Innovations for Character Development

  • Region:


  • Amount Awarded:


  • Grant DOI*:


  • *A Grant DOI (digital object identifier) is a unique, open, global, persistent and machine-actionable identifier for a grant.

Director: Eugene Ohu

Institution: Pan-Atlantic University Foundation

With a population of 200 million people who comprise more than 250 ethnic groups and speak 500 languages, Nigeria has rampant tribalism. It is geographically divided, with a largely Islamic north and Christian south, a division that muddles the cultural, social and religious diversity and complexity of its people. The struggle for control of oil wealth is another source of tension, culminating in a bitter genocidal civil war that killed more than six million people, including one million children.

To build love and unity, this project will develop a novel intervention for building empathy: virtual reality. Over two years, Eugene Ohu will direct research on young Nigerians, who make up more than 60 percent of the population. This will ensure that the next generation of leaders displays compassion and tolerance towards those outside their group.

In an immersive virtual reality (VR) experience, teenagers will walk in the shoes of people in ethnic groups different from theirs, helping them appreciate their identity and share in their sufferings. The project will conduct two independent but related studies in Lagos, Nigeria, among 540 youth aged 13-18. Study 1 will assess whether participating in a VR game design process contributes to a greater experience of empathy and compassion. Study 2 will assess whether the immersive experience of playing VR games elicits and enhances empathy and compassion among teenagers.

Before and after these interventions, participants will be evaluated to assess how these activities impacted their knowledge, thought, emotions and behavior with respect to empathy and compassion. Teachers at the secondary schools in the studies will be trained on the new VR teaching models, so that they can incorporate them into the civics and social studies curricula.


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