Using Virtual Reality to Understand Prejudice and to Reduce Implicit Biases
2017 CSS Fellowship
Understanding prejudice and the full extent of its consequences is difficult. Unless it is personally experienced, some people do not understand what it is like to be discriminated against based on their race or socio-economic status. Others don’t believe it occurs simply because it doesn’t happen to them or because they’re not prejudiced themselves. To address this issue, researchers have begun to integrate virtual reality (VR) and perspective-taking (i.e. imagining what it is like to be someone else under specific circumstances), allowing users to viscerally experience what it is actually like to be someone else. In the past, VR experiences where users were able to take on the perspective of others (e.g. the elderly, schizophrenics, or the colorblind) reduced prejudice and increased empathy, understanding, and helpful behaviors. The proposed study will examine the effectiveness of VR perspective-taking at reducing implicit biases and prejudice toward black people and members of stigmatized groups as well as the effect that different immersive features have on attitudinal and behavioral change inside and outside of VR.