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      Why and how to use virtual reality to study human social interaction: The challenges of exploring a new research landscape


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          As virtual reality (VR) technology and systems become more commercially available and accessible, more and more psychologists are starting to integrate VR as part of their methods. This approach offers major advantages in experimental control, reproducibility, and ecological validity, but also has limitations and hidden pitfalls which may distract the novice user. This study aimed to guide the psychologist into the novel world of VR, reviewing available instrumentation and mapping the landscape of possible systems. We use examples of state‐of‐the‐art research to describe challenges which research is now solving, including embodiment, uncanny valley, simulation sickness, presence, ethics, and experimental design. Finally, we propose that the biggest challenge for the field would be to build a fully interactive virtual human who can pass a VR Turing test – and that this could only be achieved if psychologists, VR technologists, and AI researchers work together.

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          Most cited references 56

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          Virtual reality in neuroscience research and therapy.

          Virtual reality (VR) environments are increasingly being used by neuroscientists to simulate natural events and social interactions. VR creates interactive, multimodal sensory stimuli that offer unique advantages over other approaches to neuroscientific research and applications. VR's compatibility with imaging technologies such as functional MRI allows researchers to present multimodal stimuli with a high degree of ecological validity and control while recording changes in brain activity. Therapists, too, stand to gain from progress in VR technology, which provides a high degree of control over the therapeutic experience. Here we review the latest advances in VR technology and its applications in neuroscience research.
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            Cyberball: a program for use in research on interpersonal ostracism and acceptance.

            Since the mid-1990s, research on interpersonal acceptance and exclusion has proliferated, and several paradigms have evolved that vary in their efficiency, context specificity, and strength. This article describes one such paradigm, Cyberball, which is an ostensibly online ball-tossing game that participants believe they are playing with two or three others. In fact, the "others" are controlled by the programmer. The course and speed of the game, the frequency of inclusion, player information, and iconic representation are all options the researcher can regulate. The game was designed to manipulate independent variables (e.g., ostracism) but can also be used as a dependent measure of prejudice and discrimination. The game works on both PC and Macintosh (OS X) platforms and is freely available.
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              Neural correlates of mentalizing-related computations during strategic interactions in humans.

              Competing successfully against an intelligent adversary requires the ability to mentalize an opponent's state of mind to anticipate his/her future behavior. Although much is known about what brain regions are activated during mentalizing, the question of how this function is implemented has received little attention to date. Here we formulated a computational model describing the capacity to mentalize in games. We scanned human subjects with functional MRI while they participated in a simple two-player strategy game and correlated our model against the functional MRI data. Different model components captured activity in distinct parts of the mentalizing network. While medial prefrontal cortex tracked an individual's expectations given the degree of model-predicted influence, posterior superior temporal sulcus was found to correspond to an influence update signal, capturing the difference between expected and actual influence exerted. These results suggest dissociable contributions of different parts of the mentalizing network to the computations underlying higher-order strategizing in humans.

                Author and article information

                Br J Psychol
                Br J Psychol
                British Journal of Psychology
                John Wiley and Sons Inc. (Hoboken )
                05 March 2018
                August 2018
                : 109
                : 3 ( doiID: 10.1111/bjop.2018.109.issue-3 )
                : 395-417
                [ 1 ] Department of Computing Goldsmiths College University of London UK
                [ 2 ] Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience UCL UK
                Author notes
                [* ]Correspondence should be addressed to Antonia F. de C. Hamilton, Institute for Cognitive Neuroscience, UCL, Alexandra House, 17 Queen Square, London WC1N 3AR, UK (email: a.hamilton@ 123456ucl.ac.uk ).
                © 2018 The Authors British Journal of Psychology published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd on behalf of British Psychological Society

                This is an open access article under the terms of the http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/ License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited and is not used for commercial purposes.

                Page count
                Figures: 3, Tables: 0, Pages: 23, Words: 12701
                Funded by: ERC
                Award ID: INTERACT 313398
                Funded by: Leverhulme Trust
                Target Article
                Target Article
                Custom metadata
                August 2018
                Converter:WILEY_ML3GV2_TO_NLMPMC version:version=5.4.3 mode:remove_FC converted:23.07.2018


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