We all know virtual reality is one of the most exciting and innovative technologies to come out recently, but what most of us are still wondering is what we can do with it. There really is no one answer to this, because one answer could never encompass the full capabilities and potential of virtual reality in society. From medicine to exercise to entertainment, virtual reality seems to be truly limitless, but the more intricate aspects of its potential includes what it can do for human thought and emotion. A very recent question is this; can virtual reality make you more empathetic?
It’s not like empathetic manipulation is anything new. Just think of one of those commercials about abused pets and you know how it works. Even young children quickly learn how to manipulate the empathy of others to get what they want. Empathy is a key component of compassion for others, but these days such qualities are very difficult to come by. We’re all guilty of it at some point; we feel bad about something or someone’s situation, but we do nothing to actually change it.
That’s why evoking empathy in people is so important. Without empathy there is no charity, and without charity there are many worthy causes that would soon be bankrupt. So the question of how to increase empathy in others is always a question, but now the question extends to whether or not virtual reality can be used for such a purpose.
Television commercials often seek to show charity in need in an attempt to make you feel more empathetic to the cause. The problem is, you are still in the comfort of your own home, sitting on your couch and relaxing. You can see the situation, but you don’t really feel it. Virtual reality aims to change that.
Imagine that, rather than simply watching a commercial about an animal shelter or refugees coming off of a boat or children in a hospital, you were actually there. Imagine that you could sit in the same tent as a refugee family, seeing and hearing their life. Imagine being in the same hospital room as a child afflicted with cancer. This fuller immersion that virtual reality would provide will make the message more potent. It’s easy to ignore something when you can detach yourself from it. But if you are thrust right into the thick of it, it’s almost impossible to ignore. We feel more feelings of sadness, hope, and empathy when we are “really there” so to speak, as virtual reality makes us feel.
It’s been shown that people donate and donate more, through the vehicle of virtual reality. The true purpose of the application of this technology for empathy is to make people want to really make a difference in the world after they take the headset off. This is very promising for the future of cause initiatives!