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Virtual Bodyswapping & Racial Bias

December 26, 2014

Virtual “bodyswapping” helps people set aside unconscious biases towards others.

Transcript

BOB HIRSHON (host):

Can technology boost empathy? I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Imagine standing in front of a mirror and watching your body move – only the person you see has a different skin color from yourself.

MANOS TSAKIRIS (The Royal Holloway University of London):

After a few minutes you start building this feeling that what you’re actually seeing is yourself.

HIRSHON:

That’s psychologist Manos Tsakiris of The Royal Holloway University of London. He and his colleagues have found that our brains can easily be tricked by virtual reality technology into thinking that our bodies look different than they do. They then found that caucasian volunteers’ unconcious racial prejudices decreased significantly after they experienced the illusion of inhabiting bodies with darker skin tones. Tsakiris says virtual bodyswapping doesn’t eliminate racism, but could help people empathize with others. For example, as an anti-bias training tool in schools and police departments.

TSAKIRIS:

This is a very compelling experience.

HIRSHON:

I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.