article on virtual worlds; journal on cybertherapy

A researcher at Stanford makes some bold claims about our relationships to our avatars in “What Happens in a Virtual World has a Real-World Impact, Scholar Finds” in the Chronicle of Higher Education (by subscription). Jeremy N. Bailenson is the director of the Virtual Human Interaction Lab, where he conducts experiments on how behavior in a virtual world affects our real-world behavior.

The behaviors discussed are mostly about our perceptions of ourselves, about weight and beauty and self-confidence, for example. Users of his system interact in a more tactile way than we do in Second Life. His users are connected with helmets and motion devices that allow one to actually perform the actions of one’s avatar–a far cry from our connection via mice and keyboard keys.

Still, we do know, if only from our own experiences that we do feel a connection to our avatars, and Bailenson’s research is good news for psychologists and others considering research in SL.
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A new Journal of Cybertherapy and Rehabilitation (← download PDF) is a new resource from the European Association for Cybertherapy and Rehabilitation. The table of contents of this first issue illustrates the range of therapy options that can be performed using virtual reality:

  • From Virtual to Real Body: Virtual Reality as Embodied Technology
  • Virtual Reality for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder and Stress Inoculation Training
  • Playing for a Real Bonus: Videogames to Empower Elderly People
  • Exploring Emotional and Imitational Android-based Interactions in Autistic Spectrum Disorders
  • Virtual Reality Based Upper Extremity Rehabilitation Following Stroke: a Review
  • Virtual Reality Exposure’s Efficacy in the Treatment of Specific Phobias: A Critical Review
  • Virtual Reality in the Treatment of Pain
  • Virtual Reality Applications for Patients with Schizophrenia
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