Stanford University

Virtual Reality: A survival guide for the social scientist

Fox, J., Arena, D., & Bailenson, J.N. (2009). Virtual Reality: A survival guide for the social scientist. Journal of Media Psychology, 21 (3), 95-113.

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In this article, we provide the nontechnical reader with a fundamental understanding of the components of virtual reality (VR) and a thorough discussion of the role VR has played in social science. First, we provide a brief overview of the hardware and equipment used to create VR and review common elements found within the virtual environment that may be of interest to social scientists, such as virtual humans and interactive, multisensory feedback. Then, we discuss the role of VR in existing social scientific research. Specifically, we review the literature on the study of VR as an object, wherein we discuss the effects of the technology on human users; VR as an application, wherein we consider real-world applications in areas such as medicine and education; and VR as a method, wherein we provide a comprehensive outline of studies in which VR technologies are used to study phenomena that have traditionally been studied in physical settings, such as nonverbal behavior and social interaction. We then present a content analysis of the literature, tracking the trends for this research over the last two decades. Finally, we present some possibilities for future research for interested social scientists. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)

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