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Games to Teach Mindfulness and Compassion to Adolescents

Video games are a significant component of children’s lives in the United States. According to a 2009 survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation, a child in the United States (age 8-18) spends an average of 73 minutes per day playing games. Because a well-designed game can engage a child’s attention for entertainment purposes, it only makes sense to leverage this interest in a way that can have a meaningful impact on children’s learning and development.

In collaboration with the Games+Learning+Society Center, we've developed two pilot games: Tenacity and Crystals of Kaydor. We designed Tenacity in efforts to help children improve and learn to self-regulate their attention. Crystals of Kaydor is designed to help children develop empathy and pro-social behavior. In addition, the game seeks to promote social interactions with peers that are collaborative, cooperative and kind.

Improving children’s skills in detecting subtle social signals is a key building block for empathy and compassion throughout life. To determine if both games have their intended effects, we are evaluating the effects of gameplay using neuroimaging and behavioral measures.

The games were developed several years ago for this research project. With recent advancements in technology, further support and development would be needed to make it available for future research or other applications.


Questions about this study? Contact us.

People Working on This Study

Nagesh Adluru
Nagesh Adluru
Assistant Scientist, Center for Healthy Minds
Richard J. Davidson
Founder, Center for Healthy Minds & Healthy Minds Innovations, William James & Vilas Professor of Psychology & Psychiatry
Lisa Flook
Lisa Flook
Former Associate Scientist, Center for Healthy Minds
Tammi Kral
Former Postdoctoral Research Associate, Center for Healthy Minds
Elena Patsenko
Honorary Fellow, Former Research Scientist, Center for Healthy Minds

Media Related to this Project

Transforming Empathy Into Compassion: Why It Matters
Feb 28, 2023
Why some kinds of empathy are better for you than others.
UW-Madison researchers use video game to teach kids mindfulness
Jan 13, 2020
Center scientists share the impact from a study where kids played a video game to train mindfulness
A Kid In A Refugee Camp Thought Video Games Fell From Heaven. Now He Makes Them
Dec 11, 2019
Games where a player takes on another person's perspective or becomes immersed in a specific environment can be beneficial in building positive interpersonal relationships, according to Tammi Kral, a research assistant at the Center.
Harnessing the Power of Video Games to Teach Children Empathy
Oct 15, 2018
Center founder Richard Davidson discusses the video game Crystals of Kaydor and the implications of teaching kids empathy through video games.
Can Video Games Actually Teach Kids Empathy? New Study Says Yes
Sep 10, 2018
Researchers from the Center for Healthy Minds have discovered a video game designed to teach children empathy can change young brains and improve social behavior.
Can Video Games Change Your Brain? UW Research Suggests Games Can Build Empathy
Sep 10, 2018
Research from the Center for Healthy Minds shows video games may have the power to help children develop empathy
Scientists Used Video Games to Teach Children Empathy
Sep 07, 2018
Researchers from the Center for Healthy Minds found that video games can teach adolescents prosocial skills
Can A Video Game Build Empathy? UW Researchers May Have Found A Way
Aug 10, 2018
Center founder Richard Davidson discusses the groundbreaking discovery that a video game can build empathy skills in adolescents.

Related Publications

Kral, T. R. A., Stodola, D. E., Birn, R. M., Mumford, J. A., Solis, E., Flook, L., Patsenko, E. G., Anderson, C. G., Steinkuehler, C., & Davidson, R. J. (2018). Neural correlates of video game empathy training in adolescents: A randomized trial. npj Science of Learning 3, 13. doi:10.1038/s41539-018-0029-6 PMCID: PMC6220300
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