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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.
Plechatá, A., Morton, T., Perez-Cueto, F., Makransky, G. (2022). Why just Experience the Future when you can Change it: Virtual Reality can Increase Pro-Environmental Food Choices through Self-Efficacy.
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.
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.
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.
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