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Virtual Reality Can Boost Empathy

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The researchers used virtual reality to induce empathy.

New research suggests perspective-taking through virtual reality can enhance feelings of empathy and prosocial behavior.

Credit: James Atoa/UPI

New research from Stanford University suggests virtual reality (VR) can boost empathy, especially toward marginalized groups.

To test this, the researchers enlisted 500 participants to learn about homelessness by either being immersed in a VR simulation, reading a narrative, or reading the narrative in conjunction with a two-dimensional (2D) interactive experience on a computer. Afterwards, participants were questioned about their empathy for homeless people and asked to sign a petition supporting homeless populations.

Participants who experienced the narrative via VR were more likely to sign the petition than those who read the narrative or experienced a 2D simulation.

Researcher Fernanda Herrera said the major finding of the research was that “taking the perspective of others in virtual reality, in this case the perspective of a homeless person, produces more empathy and pro-social behaviors immediately after the VR experience and better attitudes toward the homeless over the course of two months, when compared to a traditional perspective-taking task."

From United Press International
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