Who am I?

My name is Kaz Voeten. I’m a 24 years old Industrial Designer from the Netherlands.

I love exploring technology and tinkering with it. As a result, my main hobbies include programming and creating games. Creating games sometimes even more so than actually playing any. Writing code with a cup of coffee calms my mind and every completed line keeps me motivated. I love working on new designs when I notice something people need, or see an opportunity for creating something people would simply enjoy.

My vision

Empathy within our society is in decline. Research has found evidence for both a decline in empathy in American college students [6] as well as medical students [5]. Especially in the latter case, this causes concern. Helen Riess for example, who authored the book “The Empathy Effect”, states that while the response from doctors to step back and create emotional distance from suffering patients in order to remain professional is common, it’s not beneficial. This mostly as it leads to distrustful, disgruntled and less cooperative patients as well as lonelier, less effective, and more burned-out physicians [7].

The critical role empathy plays in creating pro-social behavior [4] is clear, but the future doesn’t look very bright in terms of empathy. Society will have to adapt in order to reduce, and hopefully eliminate, this decline. Improving empathy amongst young adults also benefits another looming hurdle these people may face as they grow older: social isolation.

Social isolation, loneliness, and living alone, corresponding to an average of 29%, 26%, and 32% increased likelihood of mortality, respectively [2]. Having close friends helps promoting activity engagement in old age, which contributes to cognitive reserve, allowing ageing individuals to maintain executive functioning [1]. Maintaining social reserve is key for growing old healthy and active. Evidence suggests that individuals begin the narrowing of social reserve long before they grow old [3], making it beneficial to at an early age teach these ‘pro-social empathy driven social skills’, also known as positive empathy [8] of which evidence suggest correlation with increased prosocial behavior, social closeness, and well-being.

My indentity

One method design researcher explore in order to teach, or rather arouse, empathy is through virtual reality [9, 10]. Most current efforts however focus on the experiential component of empathy [11], rather than including the social components. This is logical, as virtual reality is mostly known as an immersive media technology that gives an unprecedented look at a simulated experience through someone else’s eyes. More recent research and development has looked at virtual reality from a different perspective however, looking at virtual reality as a meeting platform for shared experiences rather than individual experiences [11].

As a designer I’m aiming for further explore empathy arousal and the teaching of pro-social skills, currently through virtual reality, developing expertise in the competences of design most suited for this task: User & Society, Technology & Realization and Design Research Processes. My focus is on Empathy and Persuasive gaming as a means to create pro-social gaming experiences, and to provide designers and researchers such as myself with the tools required to research and develop empathy engagement through VR.


  1. Ihle, A., Oris, M., Baeriswyl, M., Zuber, S., Cullati, S., Maurer, J., & Kliegel, M. (n.d.). The longitudinal relation between social reserve and smaller subsequent decline in executive functioning in old age is mediated via cognitive reserve. International Psychogeriatrics, 1-7. doi:10.1017/S1041610219001789
  2. Holt-Lunstad, J., Smith, T. B., Baker, M., Harris, T., & Stephenson, D. (2015). Loneliness and Social Isolation as Risk Factors for Mortality: A Meta-Analytic Review. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 10(2), 227–237. https://doi.org/10.1177/1745691614568352
  3. Carstensen, L. L. (1992). Social and emotional patterns in adulthood: Support for socioemotional selectivity theory, Psychology and Aging, vol 7(3), 331-338.
  4. Riess, H. (2017). The Science of Empathy. Journal of Patient Experience, 4(2), 74–77. https://doi.org/10.1177/2374373517699267
  5.  Hojat, M., Mangione, S., Nasca, T.J., Rattner, S., Erdmann, J.B., Gonnella, J.S. and Magee, M. (2004), An empirical study of decline in empathy in medical school. Medical Education, 38: 934-941. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2929.2004.01911.x
  6. Konrath, S. H., O'Brien, E. H., & Hsing, C. (2011). Changes in Dispositional Empathy in American College Students Over Time: A Meta-Analysis. Personality and Social Psychology Review, 15(2), 180-198. https://doi.org/10.1177/1088868310377395
  7.  Jill Stuttie (2019), Why the World needs an Empathy Revolution, Greater Good Magazine, https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/why_the_world_needs_an_empathy_revolution.
  8. Morelli, S. A., Lieberman, M. D. and Zaki, J. ( 2015), The Emerging Study of Positive Empathy, Social and Personality Psychology Compass, 9, 57– 68, doi: 10.1111/spc3.12157
  9. Daphne A. Muller, Caro R. van Kessel, and Sam Janssen. 2017. Through Pink and Blue glasses: designing a dispositional empathy game using gender stereotypes and Virtual Reality. In CHI PLAY 2017 Extended Abstracts -Extended Abstracts Publication of the Annual Symposium on Computer-Human Interaction in Play. Association for Computing Machinery, Inc, United States, 599–605. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1145/3130859.313086217
  10. Martijn Kors, Gabriele Ferri, Erik D. van der Spek, Cas Ketel, and Ben Schouten. 2016. A Breathtaking Journey.: On the Design of an Empathy-Arousing Mixed-Reality Game. 91 – 104. DOI: https://dl.acm.org/doi/10.1145/2967934.2968110
  11. Jamil Zaki. 2014. Empathy: A motivated account. Psychological bulletin140 (11 2014), 1608–47. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1037/a0037679