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Open AccessArticle

Virtual Reality for Research in Social Neuroscience

Department of Psychology, University of North Texas, Denton 76203, USA
Computational Neuropsychology and Simulation (CNS) Laboratory, University of North Texas, Denton 76203, USA
Department of Psychology, Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore, Milan 20123, Italy
Applied Technology for Neuro-Psychology Laboratory, Istituto Auxologico Italiano, Milan 20145, Italy
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Academic Editor: Stephanie Cacioppo
Brain Sci. 2017, 7(4), 42;
Received: 14 February 2017 / Revised: 28 March 2017 / Accepted: 12 April 2017 / Published: 16 April 2017
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Best Practices in Social Neuroscience)
The emergence of social neuroscience has significantly advanced our understanding of the relationship that exists between social processes and their neurobiological underpinnings. Social neuroscience research often involves the use of simple and static stimuli lacking many of the potentially important aspects of real world activities and social interactions. Whilst this research has merit, there is a growing interest in the presentation of dynamic stimuli in a manner that allows researchers to assess the integrative processes carried out by perceivers over time. Herein, we discuss the potential of virtual reality for enhancing ecological validity while maintaining experimental control in social neuroscience research. Virtual reality is a technology that allows for the creation of fully interactive, three-dimensional computerized models of social situations that can be fully controlled by the experimenter. Furthermore, the introduction of interactive virtual characters—either driven by a human or by a computer—allows the researcher to test, in a systematic and independent manner, the effects of various social cues. We first introduce key technical features and concepts related to virtual reality. Next, we discuss the potential of this technology for enhancing social neuroscience protocols, drawing on illustrative experiments from the literature. View Full-Text
Keywords: social neuroscience; ecological validity; virtual reality; virtual characters; social presence social neuroscience; ecological validity; virtual reality; virtual characters; social presence
MDPI and ACS Style

Parsons, T.D.; Gaggioli, A.; Riva, G. Virtual Reality for Research in Social Neuroscience. Brain Sci. 2017, 7, 42.

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