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CISTI'2023 - 18th Iberian Conference on Information Systems and Technologies

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Measuring The Impact of Virtual Reality Environments In Building Empathy Towards People With Schizophrenia

Schizophrenia is a complex syndrome, with multifactorial neurodevelopmental changes, often subject to stigma and misunderstanding. Empathy is considered a complex component of human emotional experience. Virtual reality can represent environments that induce emotions equivalent to what certain real situations provoke in an individual. The main objective of this work is to explore whether immersive virtual reality tools alter brain and cardiac electrical activity, with a consequent increase in empathy, envisioning stigma reduction towards individuals with schizophrenia. Two different tools were compared: a 360º immersive environment and a totally virtual immersive environment. A questionnaire was applied before and after the intervention, assessing empathy, social distance, and attitudes towards the person with schizophrenia. The results suggest an increase in empathy, characterized by the increase in the activation of the right dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, as well as a change in heart rate representing an activation of the Autonomic Nervous System. Questionnaire responses corroborate these findings. We conclude that both virtual reality tools can be valuable approaches to promote empathy.

André Marques
Psychosocial Rehabilitation Laboratory (LabRP), School of Health (ESS)

Carla Sá-Couto
Community Medicine, Information and Decision Sciences Department (MEDCIDS), Faculty of Medicine, University of Porto (FMUP)


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