This interdisciplinary symposium presented novel empathy interventions against the backdrop of empathy failures to highlight the critical role of motivation in determining intervention success. Discussions explored how accounting for empathy-related motives improves the scientific precision and efficacy of empathy interventions to promote desirable social and emotional outcomes. Across four studies we show that an increased preference for hierarchy (i.e. SDO) led people to feel less empathy and more counter-empathy towards targets. When group boundaries were made salient, participants higher in SDO showed this effect to a greater degree towards out-group targets compared to ingroup targets.