Stanford University, in California, carries out a study that seeks to put the subject in the role of a homeless person to alleviate social rejection.
California has been experiencing a growing problem in its neighborhoods since the 80s, witnessing the terrible increase in inequality and the distribution of wealth. Entire neighborhoods that have been repopulated entirely of people who have lost everything and are engaged in begging. Despite having a social democratic state government, it has not managed to implement policies to support the disadvantaged that help reduce the phenomenon. On the other hand, the republican institutions do not seem to offer a solution either, criminalizing these communities in favor of their anti-drug or immigration policies and avoiding spending resources due to their austerity measures, trying to permanently reduce public spending.
We see empathy as a birth trait, when the truth is that it is proven that it is something that we can all work to more or less influence our behavior. What is impressive about this research is the evidence that virtual reality can actually help change attitudes or behavior in a positive way in the long term.”
Jamil Zaki. Director of the Social Neuroscience Laboratory at Stanford
From Palo Alto, Stanford university researchers are working with virtual reality to change the eyes with which we look at this stratum of our society. Putting the subjects in a series of experiences that makes them protagonists of a situation of helplessness and they see themselves without anything overnight, having to live with the consequences. One of the scenes, they describe, is to defend your last belongings from a stranger, after being forced to seek refuge in a bus.
They are confident about the results since up to 85% of the participants showed a solidarity response after having experienced the tragedy in virtual reality, in counterpoint to 63% who showed empathy after having read the experience in the form of a brochure and 66% of those who witnessed the same scenes, but this time in a conventional 2D video.
Although they warn that the opposite effect can also be obtained if desired, Luciana Herrera, the main author of the study states that ” you can appreciate prosocial behaviors in the individual immediately after going through the experience, which show to have a greater impact than simply imagining it.”