Effects of virtual companion animals on human emotional health

Authors: Martin Swobodzinski*, Portland State University
Topics: Environmental Perception, Geographic Information Science and Systems, Cartography
Keywords: virtual reality, human emotion, companion animals, geovisualization
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/12/2018
Start / End Time: 1:20 PM / 3:00 PM
Room: Grand Couteau, Sheraton, 5th Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Recent advances in the development of virtual-reality (VR) technology have brought about a rapid proliferation of VR devices and content that provide for realistic, life-like sensorimotor experiences of virtual environments. A significant number of studies has examined clinical outcomes related to the use of VR technology in the management and treatment of pain and psychological trauma. However, the effectiveness of VR technology on positive human emotional response to promote mental well-being has received considerably less attention. In this talk we will discuss an ongoing study that investigates whether exposure to positively valenced video content through a VR device (i.e., Oculus Rift) induces positive psychological and physiological responses. More specifically, our study aims at identifying whether multimodal stimulus control promotes positive changes in emotions and physiological response in people observing interactions of companion animals in a VR environment. The study employs N = 240 participants which are randomly assigned to an experimental condition in a repeated-measures mixed factorial 3x2x2 design with three factors: 1. modality of experience (i.e., VR head-mounted display, computer monitor, and photo book), 2. presence or absence of an auditory stimulus (i.e., digital recordings of dog sounds), and 3. presence or absence of a tactile stimulus (i.e., holding a stuffed animal). We expect that our study will provide evidence for the positive effects of immersive VR experiences on indicators of physiological and emotional well-being.

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