Study Reveals That We Behave Differently in Virtual Reality
A new study found that people behave differently in virtual reality than in the real world.
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Virtual reality technology is increasingly being used for training workers in a wide range of scenarios. For the training to be effective, however, it's vital that people behave in the virtual world as they would in the real one. New research from the University of British Columbia suggests this may not be the case.
"People expect VR experiences to mimic actual reality and thus induce similar forms of thought and behavior," the researchers explain. " This study shows that there's a big separation between being in the real world, and being in a VR world."
The particular field of study the researchers examined was yawning, with specific attention given to contagious yawns that can rapidly spread through a group. Yawns have been proven to spread throughout most social groups, with the exception of when we feel as though we're being watched.
The researchers attempted to replicate the kind of environment that encourages contagious yawning in a virtual environment. Volunteers were asked to wear an immersive headset and were exposed to videos of other people yawning. In the virtual environment, the volunteers themselves 'caught' the yawning around 38 percent of the time, which the researchers suggest is within the expected rate of 30-60 percent that occurs in real life.
When a social presence was introduced to the virtual environment, however, unlike in the real world, this had little effect on the contagiousness of the yawn. What's more, the social presence was negligible, even when the volunteers were watched by both an avatar and a virtual webcam. It seems the contagiousness of yawning carried over into the real world, but the apprehension we feel from being watched did not.
Interestingly, however, the social inhibition from being watched returned when the volunteers were being observed by another person in the same physical room as them. This was despite the volunteers being unable to either see or hear the onlooker, just knowing they were there seemed to inhibit them and prevent the yawn from catching.
While it's not clear just how widespread these findings might be, the researchers, nonetheless, believe researchers and educators need to be aware that we don't automatically replicate our real world behaviors in the virtual environment.
"Using VR to examine how people think and behave in real life may very well lead to conclusions that are fundamentally wrong. This has profound implications for people who hope to use VR to make accurate projections regarding future behaviors," the researchers explain. "For example, predicting how pedestrians will behave when walking amongst driverless cars, or the decisions that pilots will make in an emergency situation. Experiences in VR may be a poor proxy for real life."
Published at DZone with permission of Adi Gaskell, DZone MVB. See the original article here.
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