Virtually Empathetic?: Examining the Effects of Virtual Reality Storytelling on Empathy
Virtual reality is gaining attention as a new storytelling tool due to its ability to transport users into alternative realities. The current study investigated whether VR storytelling was a viable intervention for inducing a state of empathy. A short documentary about a prison inmate’s solitary confinement experiences, After Solitary, was shown to two groups of participants. One group watched the documentary on a commercial VR headset (Oculus Rift) and the other group on a desktop computer via a YouTube 360° video. Results indicated the two groups did not differ in their state empathy levels and in their sense of presence levels. This suggests that watching the documentary in VR was not substantially different from watching it on YouTube with respect to the extent to which an individual empathizes with the emotional experience of another person.
KeywordsVR Empathy 360° video Affective empathy Cognitive empathy State empathy Trait empathy Immersion Presence Inmate rehabilitation
The study was conducted in the SUNY Oswego VR First Lab, established through the academic partnership between VR First and SUNY Oswego. The authors would like to thank VR First for supporting the establishment and maintenance of the lab.
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