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Journal Article

Misinformation in Virtual Reality

Virtual Reality (VR) use is growing, with approximately 20 million headsets sold in the US between 2021 and 2023. At the same time, the medium is becoming more immersive, creating perceptual experiences that come closer to the fidelity of reality with each new technological iteration. Misinformation, a longtime societal issue, has been exacerbated by the rise of the internet and social media platforms. Some of those same social media companies are also primarily driving VR: 90\% of all VR headsets were sold by either Meta or ByteDance in 2022. It is reasonable to assume that VR will amplify misinformation since by definition the medium is designed to experientially simulate “reality". However, there is little empirical or conceptual research in this area. The current paper reviews research on VR and misinformation and proposes an affordance-based framework for examining how VR features may foster false beliefs. We categorize VR features into two categories, immersive features (e.g., stereoscopic vision, head tracking, etc.) and content features (e.g., self-embodiment, consistency, and persistence), and for each, we review previous research on its relationship with influencing beliefs and provide informed predictions as to if and how that feature will contribute to the effectiveness of misinformation. We argue that VR can produce “mis-experiences” and will require new mitigation strategies in the trust and safety space.

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James Gardner Brown
Jeremy N Bailenson
Jeffrey T Hancock
Journal Name
Journal of Online Trust and Safety
Publication Date
April 26, 2023
Journal of Online Trust and Safety