HUFFINGTON POST

Could Virtual Reality Make Us Better People?

PARIS, FRANCE - DECEMBER 23:  A gamer plays a game with the virtual reality head-mounted display 'Oculus Rift' during the 'No
PARIS, FRANCE - DECEMBER 23: A gamer plays a game with the virtual reality head-mounted display 'Oculus Rift' during the 'Noel de Geek' at the Cite des Sciences et de l'industrie on December 23, 2014 in Paris, France. The display transfers the eye movements to the game in real time. 'Noel de Geek' takes place from December 23, 2014 till January 04, 2015. (Photo by Chesnot/Getty Images)

When we talk about digital media being more immersive, it's usually not good news for social skills. We worry about the kids. So when news first started coming out that virtual reality was making its way into universities and schools, some parents and pundits were, understandably, concerned. The idea of students at any age being encouraged to spend even more time in the digital world just seemed like another step on the road toward a future society filled with self-absorbed zombies, at turns aggressive and indifferent, lacking empathy and the ability to communicate with each other.

Recent and ongoing research, however, has found that immersive virtual reality scenarios—digital media that enables people to virtually experience something that feels more or less real—could actually encourage "pro-social" behaviors. Virtual reality has been shown to engender racial sensitivity in participants, as well as greater empathy for those with disabilities, respect for the environment, and an increased willingness to help others.

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