Measuring Empathy: Collaborative Assessment Project

March 15th, 2015 - December 1st, 2017 | PROJECT

Over 200 zoos and aquariums in North America are accredited members of the Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA), with a shared vision of the future: a world where all people respect, value and conserve wildlife and wild places. Through programs & experiences that reach millions of people each year, we hope to encourage caring and empathy towards all living things, but we lack the tools that are needed to assess whether – and how – we’re reaching this goal. The overall goal of this 2 year collaborative project is to create tools that zoos and aquariums can use to assess whether they’re meeting their goal of encouraging caring and empathy towards wildlife. Project partners (Woodland Park Zoo, Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium, & Seattle Aquarium) aim to develop, test and share tools that can be used by accredited zoos & aquariums to assess whether their educational programs are having the desired impact of encouraging children’s empathy towards animals. To better inform our understanding of the empathic experience and the role it plays in human relationships with animals, an advisory team comprised of conservation psychologists and evaluation practitioners in the zoo and aquarium field, has been formed to aid in this two year project.

Project Website(s)

(no project website provided)

Project Products

Project brief for Measuring Empathy Collaborative Assessment Project
Best practices in developing empathy toward wildlife
Expressions of Empathy and Related Emotions towards Animals: Observational Framework and Code sheet
Empathy towards Animals: Pre/Post Survey Protocol and Instruments
Semantic Differential Scale (age 10-13 years)
Semantic Differential Scale (age 13 and up)
Action Reaction Activity
Conservation Pen Pals
Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium
Seattle Aquarium
Woodland Park Zoo

Team Members

Woodland Park Zoo, Contributor
Mary Jackson, Evaluator, Seattle Aquarium
Kathryn Owen, Project Manager, Kathryn Owen Consulting
Kathayoon Khalil, Evaluator, Seattle Aquarium
Jim Wharton, Co-Principal Investigator, Seattle Aquarium


Audience: Elementary School Children (6-10) | Evaluators | Middle School Children (11-13) | Museum | ISE Professionals | Parents | Caregivers | Pre-K Children (0-5) | Scientists | Youth | Teen (up to 17)
Discipline: Education and learning science | Social science and psychology
Resource Type: Project Descriptions
Environment Type: Aquarium and Zoo Programs | Public Programs | Summer and Extended Camps