Ahn, S. J., Bostick, J., Ogle, E., Nowak, K., McGillicuddy, K., & Bailenson, J. N. (2016). Experiencing nature: Embodying animals in immersive virtual environments increases inclusion of nature in self and involvement with nature. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication.
Immersive virtual environments (IVEs) produce simulations that mimic unmediated sensory experiences. 3 experiments (N = 228) tested how different modalities increase environmental involvement by allowing users to inhabit the body of animals in IVEs or watch the experience on video. Embodying sensory-rich experiences of animals in IVEs led to greater feeling of embodiment, perception of being present in the virtual world, and interconnection between the self and nature compared to video. Heightened interconnection with nature elicited greater perceptions of imminence of the environmental risk and involvement with nature, which persisted for 1 week. Although the effect sizes were small to moderate, findings suggest that embodied experiences in IVEs may be an effective tool to promote involvement with environmental issues.