Virtual Reality and Prosocial Behavior

Shriram, K., Oh, S.Y. & Bailenson, J.N. Virtual reality and prosocial behavior (2017), in Burgoon, J.K., Magnenat-Thalmann, N., Pantic, M. & Vinciarelli, A. (Eds.), Social Signal Processing, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge (2017), pp. 304-316


People have long been intrigued by the notion of a virtual space that could offer an escape from reality to new sensory experiences. As early as 1965, Sutherland envisioned that the ‘ultimate display’ would enable users to actively interact with the virtual space as if it were real, giving them “a chance to gain familiarity with concepts not realizable in the physical world”(Sutherland, 1965, p. 506). William Gibson appears to have shared this vision when coining the term ‘cyberspace’ in his 1984 novel Neuromancer, defining it as “a consensual hallucination experienced daily by billions of legitimate operators, in every nation, by
children being taught mathematical concepts…”(p. 51). While the image may have seemed farfetched at the time, the mounting popularity of home video game consoles, massively multiplayer online role playing games (MMORPGs), and massive open online courses (MOOCs) all demonstrate that virtual reality (VR) is an increasingly integral component of our everyday lives.