Empathy models and software engineering — A preliminary analysis and taxonomy

Hashini Gunatilake, John Grundy, Ingo Mueller, Rashina Hoda

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Empathy is widely used in many disciplines such as philosophy, sociology, psychology, health care. Ability to empathise with software end-users seems to be a vital skill software developers should possess. This is because engineering successful software systems involves not only interacting effectively with users but also understanding their true needs. Empathy has the potential to address this situation. Empathy is a predominant human aspect that can be used to comprehend decisions, feelings, emotions and actions of users. However, to date empathy has been under-researched in software engineering (SE) context. In this position paper, we present our exploration of key empathy models from different disciplines and our analysis of their adequacy for application in SE. While there is no evidence for empathy models that are readily applicable to SE, we believe these models can be adapted and applied in SE context with the aim of assisting software engineers to increase their empathy for diverse end-user needs. We present a preliminary taxonomy of empathy by carefully considering the most popular empathy models from different disciplines. We encourage future research on empathy in SE as we believe it is an important human aspect that can significantly influence the relationship between developers and end-users.

Original languageEnglish
Article number111747
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Systems and Software
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2023


  • Empathy
  • Empathy models
  • Human aspects
  • Human factors
  • Software engineering
  • Taxonomy

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