Researchers from IDIBAPS and the University of Barcelona developed a virtual reality system so that men who committed a domestic violence crime can get into the victim’s shoes. The study, published in Scientific Reports, shows that these violent people have a lack of emotional recognition and that virtual experience improves the participant’s perception of emotions.
On February 22, the results of the study were presented in an event in which the following participants took part: Professor Elías Campo, director of IDIBAPS; Mavi Sánchez Vives, coordinator of the study and ICREA researcher in IDIBAPS, where she leads the Systems Neuroscience team; Mel Slater, director of the Experimental Virtual Environments for Neuroscience and Technology (Event Lab) in the Faculty of Psychology of the University of Barcelona and co-author of the study; and Sofia Seinfield, first signer of the study and researcher at IDIBAPS and Event Lab.
Violent acts to other people are related to a lack of empathy or the abuser’s difficulty to put him/herself on the victim’s shoes. Although there are studies that prove that violent people have difficulties in identifying emotions like fear or rage, there are some discrepancies due the used methodology to determine empathy and ethical problems these studies present.
The published study in Scientific Reports provides a new view on the study of empathy and aggressiveness in violent people, since it allows participants to experiment in person a virtual situation of violence from the victim’s perspective. The study is based on studies in which thanks to immersive virtual reality, participants receive a virtual body that replaces theirs. “Virtual bodies can be drastically different from the participant’s, but even so, the individual goes under a strong subjective illusion of owning the virtual body. These illusions have an impact on the participant by altering perceptions, attitudes and behaviour”, said Mavi Sánchez Vives.
The impact of changing the perspective in domestic violence
The main objective of the study was to research on some of the mechanisms of a certain kind of violent behaviour: domestic violence. Researchers analysed the impact of this immersive virtual reality in the recognition of emotions in two kinds of people, abusers and control participants. Before and after of the virtual reality session, participants, twenty offenders and nineteen control people, took a test on emotional recognition to determine whether the experience would change their perception and empathy.
In the session, participants entered a virtual atmosphere in which their body was replaced by that of a virtual woman, and they underwent a process of assimilation and identification of their virtual self. Then they saw a virtual man who entered the scene and displayed a violent behaviour, both in gestures and language, who took the victim’s personal space progressively. “The atmosphere is interactive, since the abuser looks at the participant’s face and shouts ‘shut up!’ when speaking, or ‘look at me!’ if looking elsewhere”, said Mel Slater, co-author of the study.
The results show that offenders have a significant lower ability to recognize fear in a woman’s face compared to the control people. “After experiencing themselves as the victim, in the virtual reality session, the ability to realize about that fear improved”, said Sofia Seinfield, first author of the article.
“In this study we show, for the first time, that changing aggressive people’s perspective with immersive virtual reality, processes like emotion recognition can be modified. And it is thought these lie behind that violence”, said Mavi Sánchez Vives, coordinator of the study.
Learn more: Virtual reality improves offenders’ empathy
The Latest on: Empathy
'You Have No Empathy': Father Who Lost Children in MH17 Crash Blasts Trump for Not Confronting Putin
on July 18, 2018 at 2:26 pm
That's what one Australian family hopes to remind President Donald Trump with two poignant Facebook posts that were shared on the anniversary of the crash of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17. The couple' ... […]
raceAhead: U.S. Army Surgeon General on Training Empathy
on July 18, 2018 at 1:57 pm
Short up-top today, I’m taking a day or so to process what I learned at Brainstorm TECH to fold into a longer piece. But I will say this: I came away from the event more optimistic about the world tha... […]
How ‘empathy gap’ among social workers can affect services for people of color
on July 18, 2018 at 8:35 am
In practice, people pick and choose the degree of empathy that they direct toward particular populations, says USC expert Terence Fitzgerald, who studies institutional racism and child welfare. (Illus... […]
Shadow Program Aims for Doctor Empathy, Action
on July 18, 2018 at 6:09 am
Medical students seeking to become better doctors can work alongside community health workers in Philadelphia. (Dominick Reuter/AFP/Getty Images) Medical students may spend years toiling over birth, d... […]
Ruben Navarrette Jr.: Diversity easier to achieve than empathy
on July 18, 2018 at 12:00 am
SAN DIEGO -- A columnist should always admit when he is wrong, but not enough of us are willing to go to confession. Thankfully, I'm a happily married man with a wife who is more than happy to point o... […]
Opinion: Traumatized Children Torn from Their Parents Need Empathy
on July 17, 2018 at 10:05 pm
Witnessing the recent drama of the refugee children has been painful because we are wired for empathy. Even three-month-old infants show a marked preference to play with those who display altruistic b... […]
Too Much Of A Good Thing: Tips On Avoiding the Dangers Of Unchecked Empathy
on July 17, 2018 at 12:24 pm
Empathy is essential for a leader, so how can too much be dangerous? A leader can’t lead effectively without a highly developed capacity for empathy. The ability to get out of your own mental framewor... […]
'100 Demon Dialogues' Creator on Creativity, Imposter Syndrome and the Need For Empathy
on July 17, 2018 at 10:00 am
Lucy Bellwood wants to help. The book started as part of #The100DayProject, but as Bellwood explains below, the response to each installment as it was posted online changed not only how she saw the ma... […]
Avoiding Jargon, Building Empathy Will Be Focus At New Fort Worth Medical School
on July 17, 2018 at 6:38 am
A new medical school opening next year in Fort Worth will feature a four-year curriculum in communication, a program believed to be the first of its kind in the country. What’s more, it’ll be run by t... […]
'Blindspotting' stars Daveed Diggs, Rafael Casal are on a mission of empathy
on July 16, 2018 at 12:26 pm
WASHINGTON – Every time Daveed Diggs is driving and a police car pulls up behind him, he has an uneasy feeling, like that vehicle is a shark in the water. The star of "Blindspotting" (in theaters Frid... […]
via Google News and Bing News