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Virtual Reality Changes Reality?


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Does virtual reality change reality?  You wouldn’t think that engaging in augmented or virtual reality could actually change your reality, but new Stanford research conducted over this past summer challenges us to think beyond the goggles–and examine how our behavior and social interactions are on the way to changing.

Virtual reality simulates an environment completely different than the one you’re currently in, while a type of virtual reality called augmented reality seeks to layer digital information over your current environment.

Augmented reality is even changing how people interact with their physical world even after the device is removed.

While experiencing augmented reality through a headset or goggles, researchers studied social inhibition and found that having a projection of another person caused them to react similarly to having a live person watching them.  They replicated the same results of the real-life implication of having someone watch you while you do challenging tasks which causes more struggles because of feeling watched, judged, and hurried.  Whenever the projected person was in their augmented reality field of vision, they reacted by performing poorly on complex tasks while completing easier tasks more quickly, just as if they were interacting with a live person in their field of vision.

The other social-psychological studies focused on how social cues work within augmented reality—that is, do we react to social rules involving augmented reality persons as we would a real person?  They projected a person sitting in a chair and participants were asked to remove their headsets and choose a chair.  72% of participants purposefully skipped over the chair where the augmented projection had been sitting!  This really surprised the scientists and demonstrated that augmented reality changes how you react and interact with the physical space, even after the goggles are removed.


  1. Bailenson, Jeremy. “New Stanford Research Examines How Augmented Reality Affects People’s Behavior.” Stanford News, 14 May 2019, https://news.stanford.edu/2019/05/14/augmented-reality-affects-peoples-behavior-real-world/.


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