Raising Empathy: Synthesizing Performance Art and Social Psychology

Einat Amir

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperProfessional


Our performance-experiment projects aim to break the walls between people from different groups and build empathy between them. Wetend to experience more empathy toward people from ourown group and less empathy toward people from other groups. This intergroup empathy bias can lead to discrimination, and violence.1In the context of COVID19 it seems that the need for empathy is even greater and that there is a worldwide increase inhatred toward marginalizedgroups.2Minoritizedpopulations are also discriminated against in the context of COVID medical assistance and prevention.We believe that acollaboration between artists and scientists is essential in the effort to subvert these tendencies.3As part of a long-term collaboration, we, Yossi Hasson -a social psychologistand empathy researcher andEinat Amir -a performance artistand researcher, created a work model: participatory performance art that is synthesized with a real-time psychological experiment, in which empathy is discussed, challenged, and experienced. Theperformative paradigm offersan innovative way to conduct research of complex societal phenomena(such as intergroup empathy bias)where scientific data is often insufficient on its own.4Ourmodel is shown to raise levels of empathy towards those who are less seen and less considered in different societiesby altering people’s basic assumptions about the limitations of their own empathy.5Our projects are done in the framework of theatre performances that attract hundreds worldwide. They consist of one-on-one performative experiences, in whichperformerschallengeaudience membersemotionally and visually througha mix of questions and actions, combining difficult narratives, moments of intimacyand humor. As part of the experience,audiencemembers consensually participate in interview-based psychological experiments and take part inan empathy-related educational process.The experience had led participantsfromdifferent countriesto feel more empathy and engage in more empathic behaviors in face-to-face intergroup interactions.So far, we have completed three large scale performance-experiments: in Israel–Palestine, in the USand in Germany,using testimonies from members of local minoritizedgroups. Each project used different artistic-scientific strategies. The presentation will discuss these projectsand future directions, using video and photographic documentation
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 18 Feb 2022
MoE publication typeNot Eligible
EventAMASS Conference: Dialogical Arts through Sustainable Communities - University of Lapland, Rovaniemi, Finland
Duration: 16 Feb 202218 Feb 2022


ConferenceAMASS Conference
Internet address


  • empathy
  • social art
  • dialogical art
  • art science

Field of art

  • Performance


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