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Reducing risk and improving maternal perspective-taking and empathy using virtual embodiment

Hamilton-Giachritsis, C; Banakou, D; Garcia Quiroga, M; Giachritsis, C; Slater, M; (2018) Reducing risk and improving maternal perspective-taking and empathy using virtual embodiment. Scientific Reports , 8 , Article 2975. 10.1038/s41598-018-21036-2. Green open access

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Abstract

The ability to perspective-take (cognitive awareness of another’s state) and empathise (emotional/affective response) are important characteristics for sensitive, co-operative and constructive parenting, which assists in developing adaptive functioning for children. For the first time, immersive virtual reality was used to place parents in the position of a child in order to assess impact on perspective-taking and empathy. This novel study was conducted with 20 non-high risk Spanish mothers (a pilot study with 12 mothers is reported in supplementary files). Mothers were virtually embodied as a 4-year-old child, experienced from the first-person perspective and with virtual and real body movements synchronised. They interacted with a ‘mother avatar’, which responded either in a Positive or Negative way. Participants reported a strong body ownership illusion for the child body that led to cognitive, emotional and physical reactions. Experiencing negative maternal behavior increased levels of empathy. In addition, the Negative mother led to increased feelings of fear of violence. Physiological data indicated greater stress in the Negative than Positive condition. Although further research is required to assess the effectiveness of such methods, any improvement in empathy that leads to a change in parenting behavior has the potential to impact on developmental outcomes for children.

Type: Article
Title: Reducing risk and improving maternal perspective-taking and empathy using virtual embodiment
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1038/s41598-018-21036-2
Publisher version: http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41598-018-21036-2
Language: English
Additional information: © Te Author(s) 2018. This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article’s Creative Commons license, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article’s Creative Commons license and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this license, visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/.
Keywords: Science & Technology, Multidisciplinary Sciences, Science & Technology - Other Topics, Prosocial Video Games, Child Maltreatment, Reality, Schizophrenia, Metaanalysis, Psychopathy, Behaviors, Increases, Deficits, Health
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS > Faculty of Engineering Science
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS > Faculty of Engineering Science > Dept of Computer Science
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10044956
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