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Simulating REAL LIVES: Promoting Global Empathy and Interest in Learning through Simulation Games

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Simulation & Gaming Volume 43, Number 4, ISSN 1046-8781


In response to an increasingly interdependent world, educators are demonstrating a growing interest in educating for global citizenship. Many definitions of the "good global citizen" value empathy as an especially important disposition for understanding others across national borders and cultural divides. Yet it may be difficult for people to achieve empathy with others who are perceived as psychologically and geographically distant. Can computerized simulation games help foster global empathy and interest in global civic learning? This quasiexperimental classroom study of 301 Northern California high school students in three schools examined the effects of playing REAL LIVES, a simulation game that allows players to inhabit the lives of individuals around the world. Compared with a control group, students who played the simulation game as part of their curriculum expressed more global empathy and greater interest in learning about other countries. Identification with REAL LIVES characters was also positively related to global empathy. These findings support claims that computerized simulations can cultivate important dispositions for global learning and citizenship. (Contains 2 figures, 6 tables and 1 note.)


Bachen, C.M., Hernandez-Ramos, P.F. & Raphael, C. (2012). Simulating REAL LIVES: Promoting Global Empathy and Interest in Learning through Simulation Games. Simulation & Gaming, 43(4), 437-460. Retrieved September 21, 2020 from .

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