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Mastery experiences in immersive virtual reality promote pro-environmental waste-sorting behavior

Valdemar Aksel Stenberdt & Guido Makransky

February 17, 2023

Computers & Education


The rapid digitalization following COVID-19 necessitates best-practice knowledge on how to use educational technologies such as immersive virtual reality (IVR). At the same time, to deal with climate change, we require new ways to embed climate change education in formal education. The current study is one of the first to investigate the feasibility of an alternative educational approach to improving waste management in the classroom as part of formal education, utilizing mastery experiences in IVR. We explore the use of a novel IVR simulation on waste management, an example of pro-environmental behavior, for climate change education. A total of 173 high school students participated in a pre-registered intervention investigating the impact of IVR on knowledge and intentions to act pro-environmentally. A 2x2 design was used to compare different design approaches to the IVR simulation based on the instructional design elements of the in- struction sequence (Direct Instruction vs. Productive Failure) and feedback (Corrective Feedback vs. Exaggerated Feedback). The results indicated that IVR was effective for increasing students’ knowledge (η2 = 0.41), intentions (η2 = 0.10), self-efficacy (η2 = 0.4), and response efficacy (η2 = 0.35) and that students found the simulation interesting and enjoyable. Furthermore, self-efficacy was found to predict intentions (B = 0.190, p = .015), supporting the idea that cognitive and affective factors drive the effectiveness of IVR. No significant differences were found in the effectiveness of the instructional design elements. This suggests that IVR can be an effective educational technology for learning through mastery experiences, but that more research on the boundary conditions of how and when to apply different instructional design elements effectively is needed.

Full citation:

Aksel Stenberdt, V., & Makransky, G. (2023). Mastery experiences in immersive virtual reality promote pro-environmental waste-sorting behavior. Computers & Education, 198, 104760.

Why just Experience the Future when you can Change it: Virtual Reality can Increase Pro-Environmental Food Choices through Self-Efficacy

Adéla Plechatá, Thomas Morton, Federico J.A. Perez-Cueto and Guido Makransky

November 7, 2022

Technology, Mind and Behaviour


Immersive Virtual Reality (IVR) has the potential to play an important role in increasing environmental literacy by providing individuals the opportunity to experience plausible scenarios of climate change directly. However, there is currently little evidence for the role of IVR, and for specific design features, in increasing environmental self-efficacy. The main objective of this study was to investigate the effects of an IVR intervention on pro-environmental intentions, knowledge, and transfer. A total of 90 middle school students were randomly assigned to two IVR intervention conditions: 1) Awareness, in which students experience the impact of their current food choices on future environmental change; 2) Awareness + Efficacy, in which students had the opportunity to change their food choices and experience the positive impact of this on future environmental change. Both interventions resulted in significant increases in intentions, knowledge, and transfer. However, the Awareness + Efficacy condition resulted in further significant increases in intentions and transfer than the Awareness condition. Finally, mediation analysis showed that the effect of the Awareness + Efficacy condition on intentions and transfer was fully mediated by self-efficacy. These results suggest that allowing students not just to experience climate change but also to see the positive impact of changed personal choices can maximize the effectiveness of IVR on intentions and transfer.

Full citation:

Plechatá, A., Morton, T., Perez-Cueto, F. J. A., & Makransky, G. (2022). Why Just Experience the Future When You Can Change It: Virtual Reality Can Increase Pro-Environmental Food Choices Through Self-Efficacy. Technology, Mind, and Behavior, 3(4: Winter).

Demographic and Behavioral Correlates of Cybersickness: A Large Lab-in-the-Field Study of 837 Participants

Tiffany Luong, Adela Plechata, Max Mobus, Michael Atchapero, Robert Bohm, Guido Makransky and Christian Holz

October 28, 2022



Cybersickness has been one of the main impediments to thewidespread adoption of Virtual Reality for decades. It has beenargued that several factors can influence the occurrence of cybersickness, such as technical factors, interaction design, but also users’ demographics and their perceived presence. Yet, previous studies hadcomparably small sample sizes and demographically homogeneoussamples; comparisons across studies (e.g., regarding demographicfactors) are challenging due to the large variation in the studiedvirtual environments. In this paper, we address these limitations andreport the results of a lab-in-the-field experiment on cybersicknesswith a large and heterogeneous sample of N = 837 participants whonavigated and interacted inside a virtual environment (ages 18–80,M = 29.34, SD = 9.50, 431 males, 400 females, 6 non-binaries andother). We found that female participants and participants with lowerVR experience were more susceptible to experiencing higher levelsof cybersickness. Participants’ cybersickness levels increased withthe time spent in VR and with the distance traversed in the virtualworld up to a point, above which reported levels declined. We alsofound a link between higher levels of cybersickness and reducedhead motion, as well as between lower levels of cybersickness andmore head motion, which led them to explore more of the virtual environment. In contrast to past studies, we did not find any evidencesuggesting an effect of age on cybersickness, nor a negative correlation between presence and cybersickness. Based on our results,we derived a model that achieves a mean classification accuracyof 67.1% for two levels of cybersickness using demographic, userexperience, and behavioral data in VR.

Full citation:

Luong, T., Plechatá, A., Möbus, M., Atchapero, M., Böhm, R., Makransky, G., & Holz, C. (2022). Demographic and behavioral correlates of cybersickness: A large lab-in-the-field study of 837 participants. IEEE ISMAR 2022.

Can extended reality in the metaverse revolutionise health communication?

Adéla Plechatá, Guido Makransky and Robert Böhm

September 2, 2022

npj Digital Medicine


In the metaverse, users will actively engage with 3D content using extended reality (XR). Such XR platforms can stimulate a revolution in health communication, moving from information-based to experience-based content. We outline three major application domains and describe how the XR affordances (presence, agency and embodiment) can improve healthy behaviour by targeting the users’ threat and coping appraisal. We discuss how health communication via XR can help to address long-standing health challenges.

Full citation:

Plechatá, A., Makransky, G. & Böhm, R. Can extended reality in the metaverse revolutionise health communication?. npj Digit. Med. 5, 132 (2022).

A randomized trial testing the effectiveness of virtual reality as a tool for pro-environmental dietary change

Adéla Plechatá, Thomas Morton, Federico J.A. Perez-Cueto and Guido Makransky

August 22, 2022

Nature Scientific Reports


This study investigates the impact of an efficacy-focused virtual reality (VR) intervention designed according to instructional design principles on eating behavior. In the preregistered intervention study, psychology students were randomly assigned to nine seminar blocks. Employing parallel design, they were allocated to either a VR intervention to experience the environmental impact of food behavior (1) and alter the future by revising food choices (2) or to a passive control condition. The data from 123 participants (78% female, mean age 25.03, SD = 6.4) were analyzed to investigate the effect of the VR intervention on dietary footprint measured from 1 week before to 1 week after the intervention. The VR intervention decreased individual dietary footprints (d = 0.4) significantly more than the control condition. Similarly, the VR condition increased response efficacy and knowledge to a larger extent compared to the control. For knowledge, the effect persisted for 1 week. The VR intervention had no impact on intentions, self-efficacy, or psychological distance. Additional manipulation of normative feedback enhanced self-efficacy; however, manipulation of geographical framing did not influence psychological distance.

Full citation:

Plechatá, A., Morton, T., Perez-Cueto, F.J.A., & Makransky, G. (2022). A randomized trial testing the effectiveness of virtual reality as a tool for pro-environmental dietary change. Scientific Reports, 12, 14315.

Virtual reality reduces COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy in the wild: A randomized trial

Clara Vandeweerdt, Tiffany Luong, Michael Atchapero, Aske Mottelson, Christian Holz, Guido Makransky and Robert Böhm

March 17, 2022

Scientific Reports


Vaccine hesitancy poses one of the largest threats to global health. Informing people about the collective benefit of vaccination has great potential in increasing vaccination intentions. This research investigates the potential for engaging experiences in immersive virtual reality (VR) to strengthen participants’ understanding of community immunity, and therefore, their intention to get vaccinated. In a pre-registered lab-in-the-field intervention study, participants were recruited in a public park (tested: n = 232, analyzed: n = 222). They were randomly assigned to experience the collective benefit of community immunity in a gamified immersive virtual reality environment (2/3 of sample), or to receive the same information via text and images (1/3 of sample). Before and after the intervention, participants indicated their intention to take up a hypothetical vaccine for a new COVID-19 strain (0–100 scale) and belief in vaccination as a collective responsibility (1–7 scale). The study employs a crossover design (participants later received a second treatment), but the primary outcome is the effect of the first treatment on vaccination intention. After the VR treatment, for participants with less-than-maximal vaccination intention, intention increases by 9.3 points (95% CI: 7.0 to 11.5, p < 0.001). The text-and- image treatment raises vaccination intention by 3.3 points (difference in effects: 5.8, 95% CI: 2.0 to 9.5, p = 0.003). The VR treatment also increases collective responsibility by 0.82 points (95% CI: 0.37 to 1.27, p < 0.001). The results suggest that VR interventions are an effective tool for boosting vaccination intention, and that they can be applied “in the wild”—providing a complementary method for vaccine advocacy.

Full citation:

Vanderveert, C., Luong, T., Atchapero, M., Mottelson, A., Holz, C., Makransky, G., & Böhm, R. (2022). Virtual reality reduces COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy in the wild: A randomized trial. Scientific Reports.

A self-administered virtual reality intervention increases COVID-19 vaccination intention

Aske Mottelson, Clara Vandeweerdt, Michael Atchapero, Tiffany Luong, Christian Holz, Robert Böhm and Guido Makransky

October 8, 2021



Effective interventions for increasing people’s intention to get vaccinated are crucial for global health, especially considering COVID-19. We devised a novel intervention using virtual reality (VR) consisting of a consultation with a general practitioner for communicating the benefits of COVID-19 vaccination and, in turn, increasing the intention to get vaccinated against COVID-19.

We conducted a preregistered online experiment with a 2×2 between-participant design. People with eligible VR headsets were invited to install our experimental application and complete the ten minute virtual consultation study at their own discretion. Participants were randomly assigned across two age conditions (young or old self-body) and two communication conditions (with provision of personal benefit of vaccination only, or collective and personal benefit). The primary outcome was vaccination intention (score range 1–100) measured three times: immediately before and after the study, as well as one week later.

Five-hundred-and-seven adults not vaccinated against COVID-19 were recruited. Among the 282 participants with imperfect vaccination intentions (<100), the VR intervention increased pre-to-post vaccination intentions across intervention conditions (mean difference 8.6, 95% CI 6.1 to 11.1,p<0.0001). The pre-to-post difference significantly correlated with the vaccination intention one week later, ρ=0.20,p<0.0001.

The VR intervention was effective in increasing COVID-19 vaccination intentions both when only personal benefits and personal and collective benefits of vaccination were communicated, with significant retention one week after the intervention. Utilizing recent evidence from health psychology and embodiment research to develop immersive environments with customized and salient communication efforts could therefore be an effective tool to complement public health campaigns.

Full citation:

Mottelson, A., Vandeweerdt, C., Atchapero, M., Luong, T., Holz, C., Böhm, R., & Makransky, G. (2021). A self-administered virtual reality intervention increases COVID-19 vaccination intention. Vaccine, 39(46), 6746-6753. doi: 10.1016/j.vaccine.2021.10.004

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