Christofi, M., Michael-Grigoriou, D. and Kyrlitsias, C., 2020. A Virtual Reality Simulation of Drug Users’ Everyday Life: The Effect of Supported Sensorimotor Contingencies on Empathy. Frontiers in Psychology, 11.
Perspective taking techniques have been used to transport people into imaginary situations and the lives of others. Virtual Reality provides an immersive way to virtually experience the lives of stigmatized by society members. Through the support of sensorimotor contingencies, people can use natural movements to view and interact with the virtual world around them. In this study, we compared a perspective taking immersive Virtual Reality system which supports a number of sensorimotor contingencies (SC group) with a perspective-taking desktop system of the same application but without support of any sensorimotor contingencies (NSC group), to investigate the effect of the supported sensorimotor contingencies in promoting empathy and positive attitudes toward drug users. Results demonstrate a strong correlation between closeness to the drug user and empathy in the SC group. In both groups there were a within group significant change in their reported attitudes before and after their exposure. Finally, participants in the SC condition reported significantly higher levels of Place Illusion (PI), body ownership, agency and plausibility of people. Further research is needed to investigate how sensorimotor contingencies can be exploited to the fullest to be used as an effective method to induce empathy and change attitudes toward stigmatized by society people.