Developing Altruism Through Virtual Reality

Potential opportunities for using technology to develop socio-emotional skills are increasingly promising. Take for example, altruism, the selfless, disinterested concern for the wellbeing of others.

Jeremy Bailenson and his students at Stanford study multiple applications of immersive virtual reality environments including the development of prosocial or "helping behaviors". A couple of these projects were covered by the Australian documentary series Catalyst, from which I have borrowed the interesting snippet below.

For those interested in more a academic reference, I recommend the forthcoming paper: Ahn, Le & Bailenson, "The Effect of Embodied Experiences on Self-Other Merging, Attitude, and Helping Behavior"in Media Psychology. (available online from Jeremy's website). Jeremy's work is described in more detail in his recent book "Infinite Reality" written with Jim Blascovich. 

He has also written a review of work on virtual reality environments for collaboration, which will appear in our forthcoming Handbook on Affective Computing (Oxford University Press)