Stanford Research Shows Virtual Reality Can Change Behavior

According to new research from Stanford’s Virtual Human Interaction Lab, virtual reality appears to be able to change the way people act and make decisions. For instance, in one experiment subjects chopped down virtual trees from a forest; the subjects used 20% less paper immediately thereafter. And a new, even more intriguing experiment lets participants experience a simulation of life as a cow in a meat factory. Subjects in this experiment felt real sadness as they were lead to the slaughterhouses at the end of the experiment, but whether or not they ate less meat remains to be seen. Though the study poses interesting questions as a thought experiment, it has vast implications for brands and advertisers on the ground. Although Augmented Reality (i.e. Google Glass) is more readily available as a reality-shifting technology, virtual reality systems such as the Oculus Rift are catching on in the gaming world, and other, more full-body virtual reality platforms are in development. This means that brands will, in the future, have the opportunity to reach customers on a much more primitive, visceral level; they might even – with the right design – be able to shape consumer habit. Though this is a long way off, it’s nonetheless important to know that the research shows it’s not only possible, but probable.