Moral Behavior in Virtual Reality
Given that there are over ten million headsets in the United States alone, and that the so-called metaverse is taking the digital world by storm, understanding the psychological issues surrounding VR use is imperative. This chapter focuses on the ethics and morality of VR use. Our focus is on some of the most pressing issues surrounding the metaverse, with an emphasis on issues for which empirical data exists. There will be five major areas covered in the chapter. First, we will focus on self-avatar use, specifically the implications of spending time in avatars which are not always accurate representations of the actual self, either by specific design or in the inability to represent all people. Second, we discuss the findings on realism, and show how virtual experiences are (and sometimes, are not) treated in a similar manner to real experiences. Third, we discuss behavioral modeling, and how lived virtual experiences can change subsequent physical behavior, especially in the context of behaviors which are not appropriate for the real world. Fourth, we discuss biometric data, and how VR systems which necessarily track physical and physiological movement can be used to identify and classify people in contexts such as entertainment, work, school, and medicine. Fifth, we talk about reality blurring, where children, and perhaps adults, may have problems differentiating between virtual experiences and real ones. In each section we focus on relevant theories, findings, and project to the future of the metaverse for society.