Background: Much has been done regarding the promotion of equality in rights in terms of legislation, but persons with disabilities remain marginalised in society. Negative attitudes and prejudice contribute towards numerous challenges for persons with disabilities.
Objectives: This study investigated the level of empathy and prejudice of students towards persons with disabilities, and the effect of the use of a serious game to enhance empathy and reduce prejudice.
Method: A randomised controlled experiment with pre-test, post-test and follow-up test was used. Availability sample (N = 83) of psychology university students (22% males; 78% females) was divided into an experimental group that played the serious game The World of Empa and two control groups. The first control group received texts on case studies and information on reacting in a sensitive and responsive way, and the second control group received no intervention.
Results: Participants have average levels of empathy (score: 32 to 52) and strong prejudice (score: 0.08 to −0.87) towards persons with disabilities. The intervention results in a slight short-term effect for prejudice and sub-scale measurements of empathy. A slight improvement was noted in participants’ ability to transpose themselves imaginatively into the experience of disabled characters.
Conclusion: The findings contribute to the understanding of empathy as a dynamic component that can be positively influenced by, for example, a serious game. These results have teaching implications on the facilitation of empathy. The short-term effect on empathy and prejudice towards persons with disabilities may contribute to bridge the inequality experienced by persons with disabilities.
African Journal of Disability, Vol 8, 2019