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      Confronting a Moral Dilemma in Virtual Reality: A Pilot Study

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      Proceedings of HCI 2011 The 25th BCS Conference on Human Computer Interaction (HCI)

      Human Computer Interaction

      4 - 8 July 2011

      Virtual Reality, Immersion, Moral Judgement, Computer Animation

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          Abstract

          People tend to respond realistically to situations and events in immersive Virtual Reality (VR). Our research exploits this finding to test the hypothesis that the psychology underlying moral judgement is distinct from the psychology that drives moral action. We have conducted an online survey study with 80 respondents on people’s judgments of moral dilemmas. Additionally, we have carried out a pilot study with 36 participants investigating people’s responses when confronted with comparable moral dilemmas in two different types of VR: desktop VR and Immersive VR. We recorded participants’ behavioural responses and post experimental questionnaire data. The results show that in general, participants’ responses in VR were consistent with the patterns obtained from the online survey. However, results also suggest that participants in the Immersive VR condition differed from those in the desktop VR condition in two ways: they 1) experienced more panic and made more mistakes in their immediate action; 2) were more likely to give a utilitarian answer (saving the greatest number of lives) in the post experimental questionnaire. This pilot study provides encouraging evidence for the use of VR in the study of moral psychology, and in particular, for teasing apart the distinction between judgments and actions. They further reveal that although our VR set up only presented abstract human figures, participants had a strong emotional reaction to the dilemma, on both immersive and desktop platforms.

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          Most cited references 4

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          A Dissociation Between Moral Judgments and Justifications

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            A Virtual Reprise of the Stanley Milgram Obedience Experiments

            Background Stanley Milgram's 1960s experimental findings that people would administer apparently lethal electric shocks to a stranger at the behest of an authority figure remain critical for understanding obedience. Yet, due to the ethical controversy that his experiments ignited, it is nowadays impossible to carry out direct experimental studies in this area. In the study reported in this paper, we have used a similar paradigm to the one used by Milgram within an immersive virtual environment. Our objective has not been the study of obedience in itself, but of the extent to which participants would respond to such an extreme social situation as if it were real in spite of their knowledge that no real events were taking place. Methodology Following the style of the original experiments, the participants were invited to administer a series of word association memory tests to the (female) virtual human representing the stranger. When she gave an incorrect answer, the participants were instructed to administer an ‘electric shock’ to her, increasing the voltage each time. She responded with increasing discomfort and protests, eventually demanding termination of the experiment. Of the 34 participants, 23 saw and heard the virtual human, and 11 communicated with her only through a text interface. Conclusions Our results show that in spite of the fact that all participants knew for sure that neither the stranger nor the shocks were real, the participants who saw and heard her tended to respond to the situation at the subjective, behavioural and physiological levels as if it were real. This result reopens the door to direct empirical studies of obedience and related extreme social situations, an area of research that is otherwise not open to experimental study for ethical reasons, through the employment of virtual environments.
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              Intentional action and side effects in ordinary language

               J Knobe (2003)
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                Author and article information

                Contributors
                Conference
                July 2011
                July 2011
                : 46-51
                Affiliations
                University College London (UCL)

                Gower Street, London, UK
                UCL and ICREA-University of Barcelona

                Gower Street, London, UK
                Article
                10.14236/ewic/HCI2011.26
                © Xueni Pan et al. Published by BCS Learning and Development Ltd. Proceedings of HCI 2011 The 25th BCS Conference on Human Computer Interaction, Newcastle Upon Tyne, UK

                This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 Unported License. To view a copy of this license, visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

                Proceedings of HCI 2011 The 25th BCS Conference on Human Computer Interaction
                HCI
                25
                Newcastle Upon Tyne, UK
                4 - 8 July 2011
                Electronic Workshops in Computing (eWiC)
                Human Computer Interaction
                Product
                Product Information: 1477-9358BCS Learning & Development
                Self URI (journal page): https://ewic.bcs.org/
                Categories
                Electronic Workshops in Computing

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