March Virtual Behavioural and Experimental Economics Research Seminar
Virtual reality not only takes us to another place in an instant, it can also give us the illusion of ‘being’ someone else using virtual embodiment techniques. Virtual bodies that we temporarily “own” in virtual reality can be very different from our physical body, for example representing another age, races, or gender. Such virtual body transformations have been found to lead to profound changes in social cognition and behavior.
In this talk I will present a series of studies in which we demonstrate the potential of virtual body transformations for intergroup bias reduction and conflict resolution. In the first study we show that embodying White individuals in a Black virtual body can not only reduce but even temporarily reverse racial ingroup bias as indicated by more favorable treatment of Blacks over Whites. In the following studies we apply these virtual embodiment techniques in the context of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Instead of embodying the outgroup in the conflict, we show that a virtual aging experience can increase young Israelis’ hope for peace and support for peace-promoting policies. I will discuss potential mechanisms underlying these surprising effects, and the theoretical and methodical implications of virtual body transformations as a new paradigm for psychological research. I will conclude with an outlook into future directions in the emerging field of ‘embodied psychological interventions.’
Béatrice Hasler (PhD, University of Zurich) is a Media Psychologist with an interdisciplinary background and has been working in the field of VR research for the past 10 years. She studies the psychological effects of VR and its social applications, and is known for her pioneering work on VR-based conflict resolution. Prior to her current position as a Senior Lecturer in the Sammy Ofer School of Communications and Director of the VR Lab for Conflict Research at Reichman University, she has been a Post-Doc in the Experimental Virtual Environments Lab for Neuroscience and Technology at the University of Barcelona. Her Post-Doctoral research has been funded by a Marie Curie Fellowship from the European Union and two fellowships from the Swiss National Science Foundation. Her current research is funded by the Israel Science Foundation. Her work has been published in the leading journals in her field, including New Media & Society, Computers in Human Behavior, and Cyberpsychology, Behavior and Social Networking.