Intelligent virtual agents have been successfully used for interpersonal skills training of healthcare students by enabling simulated interactions between healthcare students and virtual patient agents. However, during these interactions, students do not get the opportunity to take the perspective of the patient. Taking the perspective of the patient is essential for healthcare students to learn critical interpersonal skills like empathy. We propose having healthcare students create virtual patient agents of a particular race to provide them the opportunity to take the perspective of patients from that race, leading to increased empathy during subsequent interactions with patients of that race. We conducted a semester-long user study with 24 healthcare students to explore the effects of having them create virtual patient agents. Results indicate that healthcare students who created and interviewed virtual patients of the same race were significantly more empathetic than students who created virtual patients with a race discordant to the one they interacted with.
Halan, Shivashankar, et al. "Exploring the Effects of Healthcare Students Creating Virtual Patients for Empathy Training." International Conference on Intelligent Virtual Agents. Springer International Publishing, 2015.