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Virtual Reality as a tool to face racism

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The role of virtual reality in clinical interventions is well recognized and its use is increasingly becoming more extended. However, beyond its application in psychological treatments, virtual reality is also used as a tool in the context of education and ability training, as shown in recent studies that propose innovative designs and interventions that have the potential to offer excellent results.

On one hand, it has been proven that through virtual reality the implicit racial bias is  diminished (in people whose immersion in virtual reality was through a dark skinned avatar, while the patient is caucasian), which has created many expectations on how to start using this tool to face racism prejudices. This can be achieved thanks to the personification or embodiment produced through the avatar, which creates the illusion that the body is their own (ownership).

The results of this and similar studies open a whole new door on how to face racism, especially in the field of education using virtual reality as a tool.

Virtual reality also offers a new insight on the training of abilities such as empathy, as shown by researchers of Virtual Human Interaction Lab (Stanford University). Their project Empathy at scale, seeks to design, test and distribute virtual reality interventions that teach empathy, through the idea of “putting in other's shoes (literally)”. This technique in particular allows the learners to see their appearance reflected in a virtual mirror as someone who is different from them, which allows them to experience a different scenery from any part in a social interaction.  

Previous studies that have used virtual reality to teach empathy to disabled people, people with different skin tones and different ages have shown different levels of effectivity of this tool, hence we still have a long way to go.

In summary, virtual reality offers countless possibilities beyond this therapeutic field while also having a significant impact in life and social development.

 

References

Peck, T., Seinfield, S., Aglioti, S. y Slater, M. (2013). Putting yourself in the skin of a black avatar reduces implicit racial bias. Consciousness and cognition, 22(3), 779-787. Recuperado dehttp://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1053810013000597

Virtual Human Interaction Lab: projects. Recovered on 5/11/2015, from the webpage VHIL of Stanford University, http://vhil.stanford.edu/projects/[:]