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Virtual superheroes more helpful in real world, too

Date:
January 30, 2013
Source:
Public Library of Science
Summary:
Having virtual super-powers in a game may incite people to better behavior in the real world, according to new research.

Virtual child after being found and saved.
Credit: Robin S. Rosenberg, Shawnee L. Baughman, Jeremy N. Bailenson. Virtual Superheroes: Using Superpowers in Virtual Reality to Encourage Prosocial Behavior. PLoS ONE, 2013; 8 (1): e55003 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0055003

Having virtual super-powers in a game may incite people to better behavior in the real world, according to research published January 30 in the open access journal PLOS ONE by Robin Rosenberg and colleagues from Stanford University's Virtual Human Interaction Lab.

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Participants in this study were placed in a virtual environment and either given the power of flight or rode as passengers in a helicopter. They were then assigned one of two tasks: help find a missing diabetic child or tour a virtual city. The researchers explain that regardless of which task they performed, "Participants who were given the power to fly like Superman in virtual reality were more helpful afterward, out of virtual reality, compared to participants who were passengers in a helicopter in virtual reality."

The researchers suggest that embodying a superpower in virtual reality may prime players to 'think like superheroes' and thus facilitate subsequent helpful behavior in the real world. Alternately, the authors also suggest that participants who could fly in the game may have felt like more active participants than those who passively sat in the helicopter while performing tasks, and this more active involvement may have induced their subsequent behavior.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Public Library of Science. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Robin S. Rosenberg, Shawnee L. Baughman, Jeremy N. Bailenson. Virtual Superheroes: Using Superpowers in Virtual Reality to Encourage Prosocial Behavior. PLoS ONE, 2013; 8 (1): e55003 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0055003

Cite This Page:

Public Library of Science. "Virtual superheroes more helpful in real world, too." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 30 January 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/01/130130184151.htm>.
Public Library of Science. (2013, January 30). Virtual superheroes more helpful in real world, too. ScienceDaily. Retrieved March 3, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/01/130130184151.htm
Public Library of Science. "Virtual superheroes more helpful in real world, too." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/01/130130184151.htm (accessed March 3, 2015).

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