Virtual Reality and Emotion: A 5-Year Systematic Review of Empirical Research (2015-2019)

Markowitz, D. M. &  Bailenson, J. N. (in press). Virtual reality and emotion: A 5-year systematic review of empirical research (2015-2019). In R. Nabi & J. Myrick (Eds.), Our online emotional selves: The link between digital media and emotional experience. Oxford University Press. doi:


The central aim of this chapter is to identify how immersive VR can be used as a tool to inform our understanding of emotion and how emotion operates as a mechanism for VR effects. To accomplish this goal, we conducted a 5-year systematic review of the VR and emotion literature (2015-2019), while also reviewing seminal pieces from outside the 5-year timeframe to provide additional perspective on the more recent work. This decision to start the review in 2015 was purposeful in order to focus our review on recent, not historical trends in VR and emotion research, and to identify empirical studies that are concerned with three types of research: (1) the connection between VR and emotion from a emotion regulation perspective (e.g., mood induction, clinical applications), (2) studies that treat emotions as a mechanism to evaluate social or psychological phenomena, and (3) studies concerned with a deeper understanding of emotions or emotion theory. Our perspective draws on evidence from communication research, psychology, and human-computer interaction to achieve these aims. We ground our investigation in an overview of immersive VR and discuss current debates in emotion research. Finally, we attempt to make connections across fields by drawing on literature since 2015.