Monday, March 31, 2008

More use of Virtual Reality as a psychological tool.

As part of a new study, 200 volunteers were asked to take part in a virtual ride on the London Underground using avatars and a simulated Tube carriage. Their reactions were monitored as they 'moved' around the train with the aid of virtual reality headsets leading the researchers to conclude that about a third of Britons experience paranoid thoughts. One female volunteer said: "Felt trapped between two men in the doorway. As a woman I'm a lot more suspicious of men. Didn't like the close proximity of the men. The guy opposite may have had sexual intent, manipulation or whatever." Another virtual passenger added: "There's something dodgy about one guy. Like he was about to do something assault someone, plant a bomb, say something not nice to me, be aggressive."

IMO: So-called "eve teasing" has been common enough in these situations in Europe as well as India for many years, so such reactions are NOT unreasonable paranoia. Because of the lower general standard of morality in the West, "eve teasing" is not so much taken into account there. As I have already mentioned to Jack Straw, similar matters account to some extent for veil wearing in the West. Some men at least are less likely to molest a veiled woman, but recent delinquencies and indeed murders leave me sceptical overall.

UK experts believe this virtual modelling may help treat paranoia.

Lead researcher Dr Daniel Freeman said: "Paranoid thoughts are often triggered by ambiguous events such as people looking in one's direction or hearing laughter in a room.. But it is very difficult to recreate such social interactions. Virtual reality allows us to do just that, to look at how different people interpret exactly the same social situation. It is a uniquely powerful method to detect those liable to misinterpret other people."

The study was funded by the well known Wellcome Trust.

IMO: My own research indicates that the long term result of such studies may lead to all kinds of unexpected manifestations - nothing to do with the above particular circumstances - but these VR methods are certainly becoming a useful new psychological tool. Wellcome Trust are widely known for their existing ethics program so it might reasonably be hoped that they will keep such tests under careful scrutiny, from all points of view and not just those of psychotherapy and personal morality.

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