Soutenance le 16 février 2021 à 15H00

  • Pr. Salvatore Maria AGLIOTI – Sapienza University of Rome
  • Pr. Ausiàs CEBOLLA – University of Valencia
  • Pr. Narcís PARÉS – Pompeu Fabra University
  • Pr. Sophie PÈNE – Université de Paris / CRI
  • Pr. Giuseppe RIVA – Catholic University of Milan
  • Supervisor: Pr. Franck ZENASNI – Université de Paris / CR


What would the world be like if we could use a Body Swap machine to learn how to step into the shoes of one another? Empathic abilities help human evolution by letting us understand each other, connect emotionally, learn from the actions of others, provide mutual help and have the potential to lead to a pro-social society. body, affective and cognitive empathy; empathic concern; altruistic behaviour: these are inter-connected empathy-related phenomena that help us to feel and to understand what it is like to be in the situation of another person – to walk in their shoes –  shaping our perception and behaviour regarding others and the reality that surrounds us. A lack of empathy is observed in negative stereotypes, social biases and dehumanisation, being deeply embedded in intergroup relations, challenging the practice of ethics in a globalised society which states that all individuals have the same rights. Achieving this egalitarian goal requires the development of individuals’ empathic capacities on a large scale, which can be only achieved through the engagement of educational systems worldwide. But empathy is not part of most school and university curricula, although these capacities can be learned by one’s brain and body. Its training is included in several pedagogies that comprehend social-emotional dimensions of learning that could be empowered by technologies. In recent years, research on neuroscience and cognitive psychology has used XR technologies, such as Virtual Reality and Telepresence, to manipulate an individual’s perception of self and of the other. In these Embodied XR (or Body Swap) experiences, immersive realistic multi-sensorimotor interventions give participants the illusion of swapping bodies with another person. This displacement of one’s body perception into the perspective of another individual has been seen to affect an individual’s implicit racial biases and altruistic behaviour towards outgroups, even long after the exposure to immersive headsets. While technology is becoming rapidly accessible, and the creative industry has proposed concrete uses of XR to promote empathy, its potential implementation as a pedagogical tool for traditional settings has not been extensively analysed or explored up to this point. Aiming to contribute to filling this gap, we describe, analyse, and discuss the use of Body Swap interventions in educational environments, their potential and limitations, proposing a framework for how to use this embodied technology as a large-scale pedagogical tool for empathy.