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A Qualitative Exploration of Individual Experiences of Environmental Virtual Reality Through the Lens of Psychological Distance

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posted on 2021-01-25, 14:47 authored by Urooj S. Raja, Amanda R. Carrico

How to increase public engagement in environmental issues is a central question in environmental communication and environmental psychology literatures. Psychological distance (PD) is one potential barrier to public engagement. PD describes the perceptual distance between a person’s experience and an external target. Immersive technologies such as virtual reality (VR) have the potential to shrink PD. Yet, we know little about how people perceive and react to an environmental VR experience or about the role that PD plays in these reactions. To address this gap, we use interviews and focus groups to examine how people react to a VR experience about ocean acidification. We find that PD is prevalent in the reactions of VR users, especially first-time users, and that 62% of participants described feeling psychologically close to ocean acidification.

Funding

This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship Program under Grant No. (NSF grant number DGE 1650115). Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.

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