Unveiling Empathy Science: An Interview with Dr. Debarshi Roy, FRSA


Dr. Debarshi Roy, FRSA, is a preeminent figure in the realm of behavioral science and empathetic research, embodying a lifelong commitment to understanding the intricacies of human behavior and decision-making processes. His pioneering work has revolutionized our understanding of empathy, a foundational aspect of human interaction and social bonding.

Debarshi Roy has a PhD in organizational behavior and over 15 years of experience in school management as a professional and researcher. His research interests include complex adaptive behavioral systems, behavioral game theory, behavioral economics and empathy in school behavioral systems. He has published numerous research papers in reputed journals and presented his research at national and international conferences. His second book on school behavioral systems, “Empathy Driven School Systems; Nature, Concept and Evolution” (Routledge) released in February, 2022. He is also the founder of SEAB-Empathy Diagnostic Systems and has developed the world’s first AI-Ml-driven diagnostic instrument to evaluate the empathy levels of school systems.

In recognition of his groundbreaking work, Dr. Roy was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts (FRSA), an honor bestowed upon individuals who have made significant contributions to social progress and development.

We are honored to have Dr. Roy for an interview with Adrosi, where he has shared insights from his vast experience in behavioral science and explain how SEAB-Empathy Diagnostic Systems is paving the way for a more empathetic society.

Now, without further ado, let’s dive into our interview with Dr. Debarshi Roy, FRSA.

[ADROSI]: Dr. Roy, could you please share a little about your background and what led you to found SEAB-Empathy Diagnostic Systems?

[Dr. Roy]: For over two decades, I have been actively involved in working with school management and students. Throughout this extensive period, I have recognized the necessity for nurturing, forgiving and empathic school cultures that prioritize well-being and minimize the undue pressure of performance and conformity to rigid rules.

In 2018, I successfully obtained my PhD and embarked on an ambitious research journey to develop a comprehensive psychometric tool capable of assessing empathy levels within schools. The findings of my research were recognized and published in prestigious journals both in India and internationally. By compiling these studies, I managed to create the world’s first instrument specifically designed to evaluate empathy in educational institutions.

To further enhance the tool’s capabilities, we connected it with advanced AI and machine learning algorithms. This integration transformed the instrument into a powerful diagnostic and predictive system. Encouraged by these developments, we made the decision to bring our creation, known as SEAB-Empathy Diagnostic Systems, to schools worldwide.

With my years of experience working in education and the development of SEAB-Empathy Diagnostic Systems, I am excited to continue making a significant difference in schools around the world. By promoting empathy and well-being, we aim to create a more compassionate and supportive educational environment for all students.

[ADROSI]: Can you elaborate on the mission and objectives of SEAB-Empathy Diagnostic Systems?

[Dr. Roy]: Our mission is to offer schools across the globe the opportunity to utilize this innovative system. By providing access to SEAB-Empathy Diagnostic Systems, we aim to support schools in fostering empathic environments and prioritizing the holistic development and well-being of their students.

Successfully implementing such an initiative requires careful planning and execution. Collaborating with educators, school administrators, and experts in the field is crucial to ensuring the tool meets their specific needs and aligns with existing educational frameworks and practices. We also plan to provide comprehensive training and ongoing support to schools, enabling them to effectively utilize the system and maximize its benefits.

In addition to implementing the diagnostic system, we aspire to create a platform or network that encourages participating schools to share their experiences, exchange best practices, and learn from one another. This collaborative approach will foster a global community dedicated to cultivating empathy in education and positively impacting the lives of students worldwide.


[ADROSI]: How did you become interested in fostering empathy within schools?

[Dr. Roy]: As I had mentioned earlier, I became interested in fostering empathy within schools through my extensive experience working with school management and children over the past two decades. Throughout my interactions, I observed the challenges and pressures that students face in traditional educational environments, where the focus often lies heavily on performance and adherence to rules and regulations.

These experiences led me to recognize the need for a shift towards more forgiving and empathic school cultures. I firmly believe that an empathic educational environment is crucial for the holistic development and well-being of students. It not only enhances their emotional and social skills but also creates a sense of belonging and acceptance.

Moreover, witnessing the impact of empathic practices on students’ lives further fuelled my passion for fostering empathy within schools. I observed how empathy can positively influence students’ academic achievements, relationships, and overall happiness. It became evident to me that nurturing empathy in schools is not only beneficial for individual students but also contributes to creating a more compassionate and inclusive society.

This journey has been driven by a sincere desire to create positive change in the education system. By fostering empathy within schools, we can empower students to become compassionate individuals who are not only academically successful but also capable of building strong relationships and contributing positively to their communities.

Overall, my passion for fostering empathy within schools stems from first hand experiences and a belief in the transformative power of empathy in education. I am dedicated to continuing this important work and making a meaningful impact on the lives of students and the education system as a whole.

[ADROSI]: What unique approach does your organization take towards cultivating empathy in schools?

[Dr. Roy]: Our approach to empathy is systemic, recognizing that not all individuals can naturally exhibit high levels of empathy, and even those who do have limits to their empathic behaviour. Therefore, we believe that the school system as a whole should embody empathy, rather than placing the burden solely on individual teachers to be empathic.

Instead of expecting every teacher to possess a specific empathic trait, we advocate for the development of standardized processes within schools that foster empathy. For instance, when a child is caught cheating in examinations, rather than resorting to punitive measures, schools can implement a standard process involving counselling sessions with the child and their parents. Following this, the child can be encouraged to retake the examination, promoting a supportive and empathic approach.

This unique approach avoids passing judgment on teachers who may be genuinely good-hearted individuals but may not possess a naturally empathic disposition. By shifting the focus to systemic empathy, we create an environment where empathy is embedded in the school’s policies and procedures, ensuring consistent and empathic responses to various situations.

By implementing standardized empathic processes, we aim to create a more forgiving and understanding school culture that encourages growth and learning rather than punishment. This approach acknowledges the limitations of individual empathy while striving to cultivate a collective empathy within the educational system.

Ultimately, our goal is to foster an empathic educational environment that benefits all stakeholders involved, including students, teachers, and parents. By embracing empathy as a systemic variable, we can create a more compassionate and supportive school system that promotes the well-being and development of all individuals within it.

[ADROSI]: Can you share some examples of programs or interventions that have been particularly effective in nurturing empathy among students?

[Dr. Roy]: We have received reports from two schools, one located in Mumbai and the other in Varanasi, which have actively embraced empathic interventions using the SEAB tool as their foundation. The Mumbai school has already initiated various interventions to foster empathy within its community. These interventions involve teachers conducting home visits, actively engaging the community, parents, and even former students in the teaching-learning process, and designing practices that prioritize empathy.

On the other hand, the Varanasi school has incorporated specific empathic activities into its weekly school routine. The director has taken an active role in promoting empathy by introducing games and programs that encourage listening to and better understanding the students. The director also praises the SEAB tool for its valuable contribution to this process.

In both schools, empathic interventions are being implemented based on the SEAB tool, which is seen as a highly beneficial resource. These interventions aim to create a more empathic and supportive educational environment, fostering a sense of understanding and connection among students, teachers, parents, and the broader community.

The Mumbai school has taken significant steps by establishing strong ties with the community, involving various stakeholders in the educational process, and implementing empathic practices. Meanwhile, the Varanasi school has focused on integrating empathic activities into their regular school routine under the guidance of an actively involved director.

Overall, these schools serve as inspiring examples of how the SEAB tool can be effectively utilized to promote empathy within educational settings. They demonstrate the positive impact of empathic interventions on creating a nurturing and inclusive environment for all involved in the learning process.Top of Form

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[ADROSI]:  As a founder, what are the greatest challenges you have faced so far and how have you overcome them?

[Dr. Roy]: The journey has been far from easy, and to be candid, it remains a tough road ahead. One of the initial challenges we face is convincing schools to let go of long-standing practices and embrace new criteria and metrics, particularly focusing on empathy as an important factor for evaluation. Humans are naturally inclined towards the status quo bias, making it difficult to bring about change in established processes. Therefore, a significant hurdle has been to foster an understanding of this novel approach to education.

Closely intertwined with this challenge is the misconception that empathizing with students leads to their “spoiling,” and that reduced stress and pressure in schools result in lower academic performance. This myth is fundamentally flawed and unfounded. In reality, a stressed brain does not function optimally when it comes to tasks requiring logical and rational thinking, as the brain’s stress centers, such as the amygdala, become highly active. Disentangling and debunking these misconceptions has been essential in advocating for empathy-driven schools, especially since we are disruptors within an established system.

Furthermore, we encounter competition from large organizations and EdTech companies that often perpetuate the myth of high-stress performance and a winner-takes-all mentality. Despite our limited resources, we remain steadfastly honest and committed to avoiding pseudoscience and dispelling myths. Our product is firmly rooted in scientific principles, which is why every school that has utilized the SEAB tool has been immensely impressed. In fact, one school even described it as “magical” in its ability to diagnose issues and predict important variables.

The path ahead presents ongoing challenges, but we are driven by our belief in the power of empathy and the scientific foundation of our work. We will continue to strive towards creating a shift in the education system, demonstrating the benefits of empathy-driven schools while countering prevailing myths and misconceptions. Our commitment lies in making a genuine impact, regardless of our size or resources, and contributing to the betterment of education for the benefit of all students.

[ADROSI]: What’s the role of teachers and parents in this initiative? How can they support in nurturing empathy in children?

[Dr. Roy]: The SEAB system is dedicated to establishing empathy-driven schools, where the involvement of parents and teachers plays a crucial role. Through our work in various schools, we have discovered that the way schools interact with parents significantly impacts the psychological well-being and motivation of children. Even minor behavioural aspects within the school system, including teachers’ actions, are considered and evaluated in the SEAB Empathy diagnostic system.

Parents have a vital role in supporting the initiative towards empathic schools. They can start by recognizing the importance of empathy within educational institutions and advocating for schools to evaluate their empathy levels and share the findings, at least to some extent, with parents. Education is a collaborative process, and it is essential for parents and the school system to work together in order to foster greater empathy within schools.

By promoting understanding and communication between parents and schools, we can create a more empathic and supportive educational environment for students. Recognizing the significance of parental involvement and support, the SEAB system aims to facilitate dialogue and cooperation between these two key stakeholders.

To summarize what I am saying, the SEAB system emphasizes the significance of parental and teacher involvement in creating empathy-driven schools. It acknowledges that the manner in which schools engage with parents directly impacts the well-being and motivation of students. Encouraging collaboration and recognition of the need for empathy within schools, the system promotes a collective effort between parents and schools to cultivate greater empathy and enhance the educational experience for all students.

[ADROSI]: What evidence or data can you share that demonstrates the impact of your work in schools?

[Dr. Roy]: Although our work with schools formally commenced in July 2022, it is important to note that we currently have qualitative feedback on the impact of the SEAB tool on empathic interventions. However, our follow-up studies for this year are yet to be initiated, and we can only provide data-based evidence after conducting those studies. Nonetheless, I am able to share some feedback we have received from heads of schools regarding the SEAB tool.

Feedback from school heads:

“The seab is a great tool to understand what’s going on in the school. It can help a school leader identify various aspects which are very difficult to assess but contribute heavily to the school climate. We have found a lot of value when we conducted the seab. The seab gave us an opportunity to reflect and learn from our mistakes.”

Mr Siddharth Rajgarhia,

Chief Learner and Director, Delhi Public Schools: Nashik; Varanasi; Lava, Nagpur

“The School Empathy Diagnostic Survey is a wonderful exercise sharing insights of the school’s learning culture. The School Empathy Audit Report is a reflection where the school is and where the school should be. The Audit is conducted as a machine learning model to identify the variables that are the most important influencers for motivation and psychological safety of students in the response group. The evaluation framework is based on a blind study and hence the privacy of the participating students is maintained.”

Ms Syamali Chowdhury, Principal,

 Birla Open Minds International School, Hyderabad


[ADROSI]: Looking ahead, what are your future plans for SEAB-Empathy Diagnostic Systems?

[Dr. Roy]: Our vision for SEAB-Empathy Diagnostic Systems is to position it as the leading benchmarking tool for evaluating school systems worldwide. Moving forward, we have ambitious plans to expand and enhance the tool by introducing additional modules. These modules will serve both diagnostic and predictive purposes, enabling us to assess schools comprehensively and support their decision-making processes. By expanding the capabilities and reach of the instrument, we aim to provide schools with a robust and invaluable resource for fostering empathy and driving positive change in education.

[ADROSI]: Lastly, what advice would you give to educators and policymakers about the importance of teaching empathy in schools?

[Dr. Roy]: To instil empathy in future generations, we must embody empathy ourselves. It is crucial to cultivate forgiving and kind school systems that serve as a model for children to embrace these qualities. While professional expertise is undoubtedly important, it truly becomes valuable for society when coupled with empathy. A skilled doctor, for example, may have limited capabilities if lacking empathy towards patients. This principle extends to teachers, lawyers, and every individual who has the ability to positively impact others’ lives.

Therefore, a meaningful step forward is to prioritize empathy, kindness, and forgiveness within our school systems. By creating environments that embody these values, we empower children to become happier, more confident, and kinder individuals. When empathy is integrated into the educational experience, it shapes the character and behaviour of students, fostering a more compassionate society.

In essence, by fostering empathy, kindness, and forgiveness within our school systems, we lay the foundation for a better future. This transformative approach not only benefits children’s personal growth but also equips them with the skills and mindset to positively impact the world around them.

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