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The Virtual Self and Behavioural Change

RESEARCH SHOWS THAT INDIVIDUALS SUFFERING FROM SOCIAL ANXIETY CAN BE HELPED BY WATCHING VIDEOS OF THEMSELVES TAKING PART IN VIRTUAL SITUATIONS. (1)

 

The University of East Anglia study used new imaging technology to allow participants to rehearse their behaviour in a range of virtual social settings.

Participants were able to observe a life-size image of themselves projected onto a video scene which allowed them to role play social interaction with a recorded actor on screen. The participants practised small talk and maintaining eye contact in realistic situations such as using public transport or socialising at a party.

The BBC reports that ‘when used as part of a course of therapy, researchers found that these virtual environments helped participants notice their anxious behaviour and change it.’

IMMERSION FOR BEHAVIOURAL CHANGE

 

“Conceptually, immersion refers to users being surrounded or enveloped by sensory information simulated by digital devices that allow them to temporarily forget the fact that they are in a mediated environment, causing them to think and behave as if they are in the real, physical world.” (2)

Several papers from Stanford University’s Virtual Human Interaction Lab (VHIL) research programme have shown how virtual selves such as avatars have the power to influence behaviour change. (3)

Even simply watching a virtual self doing an activity can have real impact on our behaviour and physical lives. In a 2009 study, participants were exposed to one of three virtual representations under the pretense that they were performing a memory task. (4) Participants watched a virtual representation of a self running, a virtual self loitering or a virtual representation of another person running. The next day, the researched assessed much exercise the participants had done in the 24 hours following the experiment. Participants who had seen the Running Self exercised significantly more (approx. one hour more) than those who had seen the Loitering Self or the Running Other.

 

BENEFITS FOR LEARNING

 

So what are the benefits for learning?

Immerse Learning has been researching immersive learning and best practice techniques since 2005. Our learner results have demonstrated the huge potential of virtual immserion to drive faster learning and positive behavioural change.

 

The main benefits of immersive learning:

Faster learner progress – Due to the combination of live, expert instruction with immersive virtual environments, learners learn more quickly than in the classroom. Learners can do things rather than simply imagine them – contextual learning that follows the theory of Situated Cognition. Learners mentally associate the things they have seen with the things they have learned. This accelerates language acquisition, thus reducing training times and delivering improved ROI for organisations.

Higher learner engagement – avatar learning is fun and social. The learner quickly identifies with his/her avatar and builds relationships with other learners and teachers just as a student would in a real school, and all classes are activity based. For this reason, the average consumer engagement at Immerse Learning is up to 15 hours a week per learner. Even for corporate learners engagement is over 9 hours per month per learner – extremely high for such a time-poor audience.

Behavioural change – seeing their avatars interact in English in realistic, everyday environments helps learners to overcome self-consciousness. Due to the level of immersion we frequently hear our students say they have ‘forgotten’ they are speaking English, and feel pleased with the realisation. This method of learning is much more natural and makes learners more confident, fluent, and better placed to cope with real English in the workplace.

Avatar-based learning may seem novel but the results speak for themselves. The environments are virtual but the interactions are real – and so is the potential for learning.

One of Immerse Learning’s avatars; an example of using virtual reality for learning

REFERENCES

(1) Out-of-body virtual scenarios ‘help social anxiety’, 24 June 2013, BBC News.

(2) Sun Joo Ahn, ‘Embodied experiences in immersive virtual environments: effects on pro-environmental attitude and behaviour‘. May 2011, STANFORD UNIVERSITY, referencing (Heeter, 1992; Slater, Usoh, & Steed, 1994; Steuer, 1995)

(3) Several relevant publications at Stanford’s VHIL, including Jesse Fox, Jeremy N Bailenson and Tony Ricciardi, ‘Physiological responses to virtual selves and virtual others‘, p.71, Journal of CyberTherapy & Rehabilitation, Spring 2012, Volume 5, Issue 1. Virtual Reality Medical Institute. and Virtual superheroes: using superpowers in virtual reality to encourage prosocial behavior (2013)

(4) Fox, J., Bailenson, J. N., & Binney, J. (2009). Virtual experiences, physical behaviors: The effect of presence on imitation of an eating avatar. PRESENCE: Teleoperators & Virtual Environments, 18, 294-303.

 

 

INTERESTED IN EXPERIENCING AN IMMERSIVE, VIRTUAL ENVIRONMENT FIRST HAND?

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