Virtual reality can change how we behave in real reality

John Moe Apr 13, 2011

A Stanford University researcher has found that “virtual reality can change how people behave.” People part of this research were asked to cut down a redwood in a 3-D forest. Here’s how the study worked:

For one of the studies, 50 people read some information about how the use of non-recycled paper leads to deforestation. She then had one group of subjects read an in-depth account of what happens when a chainsaw buzzes through a tree. The piece described chirping birds in the forest, the sound and vibration of the saw, and the snapping of branches.

A second group of subjects didn’t read the description, but instead were plunged into a virtual forest. Outfitted with a helmet-like device that cut off their vision from the real world and surrounded with the sights and sounds of a computerized woodland, they felt like they were there.

Regardless of which group they were in, all the participants said they had a stronger belief that their personal actions could improve the quality of the environment compared to how they felt before they either read about tree cutting or chopped down an evergreen in the fake forest.

But when it came time to put that belief into practice, only the tree choppers cut their paper use.

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