Apparently a standard test for empathy is to knock over pencils, and then slowly pick them up (more empathetic people will help you). This is a great way to test for empathy in job interviews, if you’re wanting to recruit empathic types. Hoping someone helps you pick up the pencils today!
See this experiment where giving people the superpower of flying made them more empathetic, but taking them on a helicopter ride did not.
The Neuroscience Of “Harry Potter” describes some neurological experiments where they show that reading a fear-inducing passage of Harry Potter makes some of our empathy centres light up. Not conclusive, apparently, but interesting.
If you’re interested in active empathy, try this podcast of Kim Christfort from Deloitte talking to Second City’s Kelly Leonard. They talk about how asking more questions give you more information so you can be more empathetic (at around the 7 minute mark). It’s a great listen.
More on empathy: