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Open AccessArticle

Prosocial Virtual Reality, Empathy, and EEG Measures: A Pilot Study Aimed at Monitoring Emotional Processes in Intergroup Helping Behaviors

1
Philosophy, Communication and Visual Arts Department, Roma Tre University, 00154 Rome, Italy
2
Communication and Social Research Department, Sapienza University, 00185 Rome, Italy
3
Engineering Department, Roma Tre University, 00154 Rome, Italy
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Appl. Sci. 2020, 10(4), 1196; https://doi.org/10.3390/app10041196
Received: 14 December 2019 / Revised: 5 February 2020 / Accepted: 7 February 2020 / Published: 11 February 2020
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Emerging Artificial Intelligence (AI) Technologies for Learning)
During a non-invasive procedure, participants both helped and helped by a confederate with features that create social distance (membership in an ethnic outgroup or another social group). For this purpose, we created a set of virtual scenarios in which the confederate’s ethnicity (white vs. black) and appearance (business man vs. beggar, with casual dress as a control condition) were crossed. The study aimed to explore how the emotional reactions of participants changed according to the confederate’s status signals as well as signals that they belong to the same or a different ethnic group. Participants’ alertness, calmness, and engagement were monitored using electroencephalogram (EEG) during the original virtual reality (VR) video sessions. Participants’ distress and empathy when exposed to helping interactions were self-assessed after the VR video sessions. The results pointed out that, irrespective of whether they helped the confederate or were helped by him/her, white participants showed higher levels of alertness when exposed to helping interactions involving a white beggar or a black businessman, and their emotional calmness and engagement were higher when interacting with a black beggar or a white businessman. The results for self-assessed distress and empathy followed the same tendency, indicating how physiological and self-assessed measures can both contribute to a better understanding of the emotional processes in virtual intergroup helping situations. Based on the presented results, the methodological and practical implications of VR in terms of enhancing self-reflective capacities in intergroup helping processes are discussed. View Full-Text
Keywords: virtual reality; helping relations; empathy; EEG; engagement virtual reality; helping relations; empathy; EEG; engagement
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MDPI and ACS Style

D’Errico, F.; Leone, G.; Schmid, M.; D’Anna, C. Prosocial Virtual Reality, Empathy, and EEG Measures: A Pilot Study Aimed at Monitoring Emotional Processes in Intergroup Helping Behaviors. Appl. Sci. 2020, 10, 1196. https://doi.org/10.3390/app10041196

AMA Style

D’Errico F, Leone G, Schmid M, D’Anna C. Prosocial Virtual Reality, Empathy, and EEG Measures: A Pilot Study Aimed at Monitoring Emotional Processes in Intergroup Helping Behaviors. Applied Sciences. 2020; 10(4):1196. https://doi.org/10.3390/app10041196

Chicago/Turabian Style

D’Errico, Francesca; Leone, Giovanna; Schmid, Maurizio; D’Anna, Carmen. 2020. "Prosocial Virtual Reality, Empathy, and EEG Measures: A Pilot Study Aimed at Monitoring Emotional Processes in Intergroup Helping Behaviors" Appl. Sci. 10, no. 4: 1196. https://doi.org/10.3390/app10041196

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