Virtual Superpowers Encourage Real-World EmpathyIf you give people superpowers, will they use those abilities for good? Researchers at Stanford recently investigated the subject by giving people the ability of Superman-like flight in the university's Virtual Human Interaction Laboratory (VHIL).
Notes that they designed a video game that gave users the power of Superman-like flight. The participants were 30 males and 30 females, who applied head gear to enter a virtual city. A voice then instructed them that their mission was to locate and rescue a stranded diabetic child in need of insulin.
The way participants moved their arms controlled their flight pattern, and the experiment ensured that all would locate and rescue the child.
Among the 60 participants was a control group consisting of participants who rode as a passenger, passively observing, without control of the flight.
After finishing the simulation, participants were taken into a room with an interviewer to receive the pen treatment, a classic test measuring empathy. The interview has nothing to do with the experiment, but midway through, the interviewer drops his pen. The purpose of the test for empathy is to see if and when the participant picks up the pen for the interviewer. Researchers monitor reaction time.
The Superman powered participants averaged 3 seconds to begin picking up the pen, while the helicopter passengers averaged 6 seconds (a second after the interviewer began to stoop down to retrieve it).
The superheroes picked up the pens in half the time, and all superheroes picked up the pen, but 6 of the helicopter passengers offered no help at all. The experiment indicates that virtual training for empathy yields positive results.
The researchers' hope is to identify the mechanisms within the simulation and the participant's brain in order to design highly effective video games that encourage altruism, empathy, and kindness.
Darin's note: The study is startling and persuasive, exciting for me because it encourages empathy. However, much research remains, as this experiment does not conclusively identify causation. Conclusive results also need a much larger sample size, as only 60 people total participated.
Still the results are exhilarating and should promote excitement and interest in the public. The attention being paid to the subject could be the start of a great project that could have a dramatic impact on the world.
Interested? Click the title or image to read on.
Source is ScienceDaily.com
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