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      Virtual Reality for Enhanced Ecological Validity and Experimental Control in the Clinical, Affective and Social Neurosciences

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          Abstract

          An essential tension can be found between researchers interested in ecological validity and those concerned with maintaining experimental control. Research in the human neurosciences often involves the use of simple and static stimuli lacking many of the potentially important aspects of real world activities and interactions. While this research is valuable, there is a growing interest in the human neurosciences to use cues about target states in the real world via multimodal scenarios that involve visual, semantic, and prosodic information. These scenarios should include dynamic stimuli presented concurrently or serially in a manner that allows researchers to assess the integrative processes carried out by perceivers over time. Furthermore, there is growing interest in contextually embedded stimuli that can constrain participant interpretations of cues about a target’s internal states. Virtual reality environments proffer assessment paradigms that combine the experimental control of laboratory measures with emotionally engaging background narratives to enhance affective experience and social interactions. The present review highlights the potential of virtual reality environments for enhanced ecological validity in the clinical, affective, and social neurosciences.

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          Most cited references 138

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          Deciding advantageously before knowing the advantageous strategy.

          Deciding advantageously in a complex situation is thought to require overt reasoning on declarative knowledge, namely, on facts pertaining to premises, options for action, and outcomes of actions that embody the pertinent previous experience. An alternative possibility was investigated: that overt reasoning is preceded by a nonconscious biasing step that uses neural systems other than those that support declarative knowledge. Normal participants and patients with prefrontal damage and decision-making defects performed a gambling task in which behavioral, psychophysiological, and self-account measures were obtained in parallel. Normals began to choose advantageously before they realized which strategy worked best, whereas prefrontal patients continued to choose disadvantageously even after they knew the correct strategy. Moreover, normals began to generate anticipatory skin conductance responses (SCRs) whenever they pondered a choice that turned out to be risky, before they knew explicitly that it was a risky choice, whereas patients never developed anticipatory SCRs, although some eventually realized which choices were risky. The results suggest that, in normal individuals, nonconscious biases guide behavior before conscious knowledge does. Without the help of such biases, overt knowledge may be insufficient to ensure advantageous behavior.
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            Ostracism.

            In this review, I examine the social psychological research on ostracism, social exclusion, and rejection. Being ignored, excluded, and/or rejected signals a threat for which reflexive detection in the form of pain and distress is adaptive for survival. Brief ostracism episodes result in sadness and anger and threaten fundamental needs. Individuals then act to fortify or replenish their thwarted need or needs. Behavioral consequences appear to be split into two general categories: attempts to fortify relational needs (belonging, self-esteem, shared understanding, and trust), which lead generally to prosocial thoughts and behaviors, or attempts to fortify efficacy/existence needs of control and recognition that may be dealt with most efficiently through antisocial thoughts and behaviors. Available research on chronic exposure to ostracism appears to deplete coping resources, resulting in depression and helplessness.
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              Cognitive neuroscience of human social behaviour.

               Ralph Adolphs (2003)
              We are an intensely social species--it has been argued that our social nature defines what makes us human, what makes us conscious or what gave us our large brains. As a new field, the social brain sciences are probing the neural underpinnings of social behaviour and have produced a banquet of data that are both tantalizing and deeply puzzling. We are finding new links between emotion and reason, between action and perception, and between representations of other people and ourselves. No less important are the links that are also being established across disciplines to understand social behaviour, as neuroscientists, social psychologists, anthropologists, ethologists and philosophers forge new collaborations.
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                Author and article information

                Contributors
                Journal
                Front Hum Neurosci
                Front Hum Neurosci
                Front. Hum. Neurosci.
                Frontiers in Human Neuroscience
                Frontiers Media S.A.
                1662-5161
                11 December 2015
                2015
                : 9
                Affiliations
                Computational Neuropsychology and Simulation Lab, Department of Psychology, University of North Texas Denton, TX, USA
                Author notes

                Edited by: Aron K. Barbey, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, USA

                Reviewed by: Patrick D. Watson, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, USA; Aldis Sipolins, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, USA

                *Correspondence: Thomas D. Parsons thomas.parsons@ 123456unt.edu
                Article
                10.3389/fnhum.2015.00660
                4675850
                Copyright © 2015 Parsons.

                This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution and reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) or licensor are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

                Page count
                Figures: 0, Tables: 0, Equations: 0, References: 197, Pages: 19, Words: 19421
                Categories
                Neuroscience
                Review

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