When I first used Virtual Reality (VR), I found I couldn’t use it for long because it gave me a headache. While it’s still a relatively new technology, it’s come a long way in just a few years. Beyond the games that can be played on it, the experiences that are available are infinite. Even better, they’re finding that through these experiences, they’re able to expand people’s empathy.
Especially during these trying times, there’s a real need to increase everyone’s empathy. There’s too much anger and name-calling and little to no trying to understand the other person’s point of view. Doing some of these VR experiences could be a real game-changer.
This is the ultimate ability to walk in someone else’s shoes, making you feel as if their story is your own. Imagine what it would be like to experience being elderly, handicapped, Black, Asian, an immigrant, or someone suffering from illnesses such as dementia or PTSD.
VR is being used in education, from elementary schools to medical schools, and students are coming away with a deeper understanding of what it’s like to be different people.
While watching the students using VR, Rachel Marks said, “Every student was completely absorbed and mesmerized. The only sound was of hearts and minds slowly opening.”
VR allows us to live somebody else’s life for a while. We can see what it’s like to be a member of a different race, a different economic class or to be elderly or sick. It touches our hearts and makes us better people.
“Experiences are what define us as humans, so it’s not surprising that an intense experience in VR is more impactful than imagining something,” said Jeremy Bailenson.
Transporting able-bodied participants into the mind and body of an aging or disabled person through virtual reality experiences is not only being used to build empathy but also has the potential to change the way medical providers learn to care for their patients.
Embodied Labs VR uses immersive experiences to train caregivers, saying, “Understanding diseases and conditions from a first-person patient perspective allows caregivers and staff to relate more closely, empathize more fully, and serve with greater sensitivity and skill. It’s a shift in mindset and a broadening of perspective. Being able to embody the experience of someone else promotes a deeper sense of understanding, compassion, and connection.”
I think our elected officials would benefit from the use of VR experiences. They make decisions for thousands to millions of people that impact daily lives. Imagine if they were able to gain a better understanding of the people who are directly impacted by their decisions. Just maybe, they would be able to come up with some solutions that benefitted everyone, or if not, at least when they are forced to make tough decisions they could do it with compassion instead of turning “those people” into the enemy.
The possibilities are endless. Virtual Reality experiences have the potential to make all of us more decent people.
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