Virtually One: Using VR to Increase Empathy in the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict
Thompson, Robert Jr
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Two cameras were sent to two 23-year-old boys living parallel lives in Tel Aviv, Israel and Ramallah, Palestine. Each of them filmed a full day of their lives from the first-person perspective while narrating their story. These videos were given to Palestinian and Israeli study participants in Jerusalem to watch through a virtual reality headset (with the exception of 10 control participants who watched the video on a computer screen). This study analyzes their response to these videos and thus the degree to which a VR experience has the power to elicit an empathic response in a region of extreme social polarization and turbulent conflict. Empathy was measured behaviorally, attitudinally and altruistically across five markers: strength of personal identification to ingroup, prejudice towards the outgroup, positive affect associated with the outgroup, degree of perceived similarity to the outgroup, and openness to social proximity with outgroup members in the future. The results of this study showed that when the 3-minute video was viewed from the first-person perspective in virtual reality, all empathy markers increased, and strength of personal identity group and prejudice markers decreased (which was not the case in the control condition). This study has powerful implications for the potential of this technology to bring unlikely peoples together through perspective-taking in the face of deepening societal rifts that challenge our world today. This study has been done in hopes of spurring a conversation about our shared humanity and this technology’s potential for good.
DepartmentPsychology and Neuroscience
Virtual Reality Perspective-Taking
CitationLauder, Eliana (2019). Virtually One: Using VR to Increase Empathy in the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict. Honors thesis, Duke University. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10161/18538.
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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.
Rights for Collection: Undergraduate Honors Theses and Student papers