This project is involved with research regarding Virtual Reality Perspective Taking (VRPT) for inducing empathy toward stigmatized groups.
Prejudice towards specific groups of people in our society is a real-life problem. One method for reducing negative social stereotyping is perspective-taking which is the cognitive capacity to perceive the world from another person’s viewpoint. VR offers the opportunity for people to be immersed in a virtual world that surrounds them and react to their actions and virtually experience any given situation. The high level of immersion, sense of presence, and the ability to vividly experience any situation from any perspective uniquely positions VR as a potentially effective perspective-taking medium.
Based on the theories of the self-medication regarding drug use, the fundamental error and the Proteus effect, the thesis will investigate the effect of viewing perspective, sensorimotor contigencies and narrative on empathy and attitudes toward drug users, which according to the literature, is a stigmatized group, that people find it hard to empathize with.
Study 1 – The first study (Christofi et al., 2018, Stavroulia et al., 2018, Stavroulia et al., 2019) examined the effect of viewing in VR, a drug incident at a school environment from different perspectives and viewpoints in relation to the level of presence achieved and the effects on mood states and empathy of teachers who were immersed in a virtual school where a drug use incident took place. Participants were randomly assigned to one of two groups, in which they viewed the scenario twice from the eyes of whether the teacher and the drugged student (Group 1), or the teacher and a healthy student (Group 2). Their body and head movements were mapped in real time to the virtual body using the Microsoft Kinect. Partcipants’ heart rate and brain signals were measured using specialized equipment (a fitness wristband and the 14-channel wireless EEG EMOTIV EPOC+).
Study 2 – Through the support of sensorimotor contingencies, people can use natural movements to view and interact with the virtual world around them. In the second study, we compared a perspective-taking immersive Virtual Reality system which supports a number of sensorimotor contingencies (SC group) with a perspective-taking desktop system of the same application but with a minimum support of sensorimotor contingencies (NSC group), to investigate the effect of the supported sensorimotor contingencies in promoting empathy and positive attitudes toward drug users. Partcipants in the SC group viewed the application through the Oculus Rift and had to wear the Xsens motion tracking suit for real time body movement tracking and the Manus VR gloves which offered finger tracking. Participants in the NSC group viewed the application through a computer screen, and could interact with the application by using a mouse.
[j] Stavroulia, K. E., Christofi, M., Baka, E., Michael-Grigoriou, D., Magnenat-Thalmann, N., & Lanitis, A. (2019). Assessing the emotional impact of virtual reality-based teacher training. The International Journal of Information and Learning Technology, 36(3), 192-217.
[c] Christofi, M., Baka, E., Stavroulia, K. E., Michael-Grigoriou, D., Lanitis, A., & Magnenat-Thalmann, N. (2018). Studying Levels of Presence in a Virtual Environment Simulating Drug Use in Schools: Effect on Different Character Perspectives. ICAT-EGVE 2018 – International Conference on Artificial Reality and Telexistence and Eurographics Symposium on Virtual Environments. The Eurographics Association.
[c] Stavroulia, K.E., Baka, E., Christofi, M., Michael-Grigoriou, D., Magnenat-Thalmann, N. & Lanitis, A. (2018). A virtual reality environment simulating drug use in schools: effect on emotions and mood states. International Conference on Information, Communication Technologies in Education, ICICTE 2018 (pp. 225-234). Chania, Greece.
[c] Christofi, M., & Michael-Grigoriou, D. (2017, October). Virtual reality for inducing empathy and reducing prejudice towards stigmatized groups: A survey. In 2017 23rd International Conference on Virtual System & Multimedia (VSMM) (pp. 1-8). IEEE.