Virtual Reality Can Make You More Compassionate, Study Shows

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Participating in virtual reality (VR) experiences could be the key to increasing empathy, according to new Stanford University research.

The university’s Virtual Human Interaction Lab developed a VR experience called “Becoming Homeless” that researchers are using to better understand how VR can affect levels of compassion, according to findings published in the journal PLOS ONE. Individuals who participated in the 7-minute VR experience saw what it would be like to lose their homes and jobs, and therefore developed longer-lasting compassion toward homeless people compared with individuals who used other forms of media to learn about homelessness.

More than 560 people who ranged in age from 15 to 88 and spanned at least eight ethnic backgrounds took part in two 2-month long studies. Some viewed the VR experience, which guided them through interactive scenarios that homeless people face in real life. These participants were more likely to have positive attitudes toward homeless people than those who read a narrative or saw a 2D version of the scenarios on a computer. The VR participants were also more likely to sign a petition supporting affordable housing, according to the study.

This research provides significant evidence that using VR can positively alter people’s attitudes and behaviors, researchers say.

Source: PLOS ONE