Virtual reality helps people to develop empathy and compassion, claims a new study

UNITED STATESJohn Cummins, sales and marketing senior vice president for DisplayLin
Las Vegas, UNITED STATESJohn Cummins, sales and marketing senior vice president for DisplayLink, demonstrates the company's DisplayLink XR reference design with a wireless virtual reality game. REUTERS/Steve Marcus Reuter

A new study conducted by a team of researchers at Stanford University has found that exposure to virtual reality (VR) will help people to develop a feeling of empathy and compassion in their real lives. During the study, researchers exposed people to disastrous situations like job loss and the home loss in the virtual reality setting, and it developed an attitude of compassion among the participants in real life.

Before finalizing the development of compassion among people, researchers carried out two studies, each over the course of two months with 560 participants aged between 15 and 88. The major purpose of the study was to determine the effects of virtual reality in people's attitude when compared to other types of media.

"Experiences are what defines us as humans, so it's not surprising that an intense experience in VR is more impactful than imagining something," said Jeremy Bailenson, a communications professor at the Stanford University and the co-author of the study, reports.

During the study, some of the participants were shown a seven-minute VR experience called 'Being Homeless', and after experiencing the virtual reality (VR) scenario, participants were more likely to maintain a positive attitude towards homeless people.

"About 10 million headsets have been sold in the U.S. over the past two years. So, many people now have access to VR experiences. But we still don't know much about how VR affects people. Taking the perspective of others in VR produces more empathy and prosocial behaviors in people immediately after going through the experience and over time in comparison to just imagining what it would be like to be in someone else's shoes," said Fernanda Herrera, the lead author of the study and a graduate of communications at the Stanford University.

As per the researchers who took part in the study, virtual reality is capable of facilitating more meaningful social interactions and improve people's understanding of others who are in situations that may not be like their own.