Published June 5, 2021 | Version Published
Journal article Open

A Virtual Reality Simulation of Drug Users' Everyday Life: The Effect of Supported Sensorimotor Contingencies on Empathy

  • 1. GET Lab, Department of Multimedia and Graphic Arts, Cyprus University of Technology, Limassol, Cyprus and Research Centre on Interactive Media Smart Systems and Emerging Technologies – RISE, Nicosia, Cyprus


Perspective taking techniques have been used to transport people into imaginary
situations and the lives of others. Virtual Reality provides an immersive way to virtually
experience the lives of stigmatized by society members. Through the support of
sensorimotor contingencies, people can use natural movements to view and interact
with the virtual world around them. In this study, we compared a perspectivetaking
immersive Virtual Reality system which supports a number of sensorimotor
contingencies (SC group) with a perspective-taking desktop system of the same
application but without support of any sensorimotor contingencies (NSC group),
to investigate the effect of the supported sensorimotor contingencies in promoting
empathy and positive attitudes toward drug users. Results demonstrate a strong
correlation between closeness to the drug user and empathy in the SC group. In both
groups there were a within group significant change in their reported attitudes before and
after their exposure. Finally, participants in the SC condition reported significantly higher
levels of Place Illusion (PI), body ownership, agency and plausibility of people. Further
research is needed to investigate how sensorimotor contingencies can be exploited to
the fullest to be used as an effective method to induce empathy and change attitudes
toward stigmatized by society people.


This work has been partly supported by the project that has received funding from the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 739578 (RISE – Call: H2020-WIDESPREAD-01-2016-2017-TeamingPhase2) and the Republic of Cyprus through the Deputy Ministry of Research, Innovation and Digital Policy.



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RISE – Research Center on Interactive Media, Smart System and Emerging Technologies 739578
European Commission