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Virtual Reality & Empathy

October 22, 2018

Virtual reality experiences could boost empathy.



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

Virtual reality technology helps people experience what it’s like to be in someone else’s shoes. This makes them more empathetic, according to a study in the journal PLOS ONE. Stanford psychologist Fernanda Herrera and her colleagues immersed volunteers in a virtual reality experience that simulated homelessness: from facing eviction, to living in a car, and interacting with other homeless people.

FERNANDA HERRERA (Stanford University):

The main takeaway of our study is that taking the perspective of others in VR produced more empathy and pro-social behaviors immediately after the VR experience and better attitudes toward the homeless comparative to a traditional perspective taking task.


Herrera says those improved attitudes were long-lasting. She plans to test whether different types of virtual reality foster empathy in other social contexts. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.    

Story by Susanne Bard