In its most basic form, virtual reality or VR is a technology that involves your mind. It helps your mind enter a reality that has been imagined and created. While this technology offers certain benefits, one can’t ignore its potential drawbacks.
The downsides of VR are mostly associated with the excessive use of computer-generated 3D environments. The psychological effects of this important innovation would make for an excellent topic for study.
When researchers first began studying the impact of virtual reality, the focus was mainly on its negative effects. They made an observation that VR produced some negative physical responses, such as nausea and dizziness. Although the physical side-effects of virtual reality can disappear quickly, the psychological impact can last long.
In one study, a group of researchers asked a few individuals to play a low-stress game in different scenarios. Some of them played this game on a computer screen and the researchers analyzed the responses of their brain. Others completed their game in a VR environment and their brain responses were also recorded.
Lower levels of absorption were reported in those who completed their game in a VR environment. They had a negative emotional response to the situation, even though the intention was to produce a low negative emotional energy.
In another study, researchers asked a few individuals to play a simple maze puzzle game. They were to stop when they believed that five minutes have gone by. The ones who played this game in VR waited 72 seconds longer to say that five minutes had passed. The researchers call it the time-compression effect.
Clinical use of VR
Virtual reality has some excellent applications in the field of mental health for treatments. For instance, it helps some doctors in providing cognitive behavioral therapy or CBT. This is because VR produces an illusion of reality, which can be beneficial in such therapies. This is helpful to a great extent in treating schizophrenia, substance abuse, anxiety, eating disorders, and phobias.
The negative side of VR
This, however, is not exclusive to therapy alone, as normal individuals can also have the illusion of reality with VR. Today, this technology has advanced significantly. Even though people know that VR is unreal, it can trick their brains into believing that it is real.
Many who make a recreational use of virtual reality may experience its harmful effects. The interactive aspects of video games are such that their users keep playing them longer. In fact, VR games can be quite addicting just like any of the video games.
The addictive nature of such games can lead to violent thoughts and aggression in some players. Although many believe that VR can generate such responses, not much data is available to support these claims.
The positive aspects of VR
On the positive side, VR-based stress management programs have produced some interesting results. Individuals who were a part of these programs had drop in their stress levels and depression. VR has also been useful in treating tobacco addiction.
What people need to understand is that virtual reality is a platform and not a clinical tool. It can’t entirely substitute a therapy or treatment, but can certainly be used for assisting it. This can be understood in several cases where VR has been quite helpful for patients.