Stanford University

The effect of embodied experiences on self-other merging, attitude, and helping behavior

Ahn, S.J., Le, A.M.T., & Bailenson, J.N. (2013). The effect of embodied experiences on self-other merging, attitude, and helping behavior. Media Psychology, 16 (1), 7-38.

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Abstract

Immersive virtual environment technology (IVET) provides users with vivid sensory information that allow them to embody another person's perceptual experiences. Three experiments explored whether embodied experiences via IVET would elicit greater self-other merging, favorable attitudes, and helping toward persons with disabilities compared to traditional perspective taking, which relies on imagination to put the self in another person's shoes. Trait dispositions to feel concern for others was tested as a moderating variable. Participants in the embodied experiences (EE) condition were exposed to a red-green colorblind simulation using IVET while participants in the perspective taking (PT) condition were exposed to a normal colored IVET world and instructed to imagine being colorblind. Experiment 1 compared EE against PT and found that EE was effective for participants with lower tendencies to feel concern for others 24 hours after treatment. Experiment 2 delved further into the underlying process of EE and confirmed that a heightened sense of realism during the EE led to greater self-other merging compared to PT. Finally, Experiment 3 demonstrated that the effect of EE transferred into the physical world, leading participants to voluntarily spend twice as much effort to help persons with colorblindness compared to participants who had only imagined being colorblind.

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