Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Science

Virtual Superpowers Translate To Real Life Desire To Help 56

Posted by Soulskill
from the comic-books-make-you-a-better-person dept.
sciencehabit writes "You don't have to be Superman to help those in need, but you might be more willing to do so if you get a taste of his powers. When subjects in a new study strapped on virtual reality helmets, half of them were given the ability to fly around a simulated city, while the others sat passively in helicopters. Some were allowed to merely explore the city from their aerial vantage points; others were told they needed to find a missing diabetic child and deliver his lifesaving insulin. Regardless of which task they performed, the subjects granted the superpower of flight were more likely to help a researcher pick up spilled pens after the experiment was. The results have researchers wondering if our brains might react to the memory of a virtual experience as though it had really happened. If so, we may be able to use virtual reality and gaming to effectively treat psychological disorders such as PTSD."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Virtual Superpowers Translate To Real Life Desire To Help

Comments Filter:
  • VR BS (Score:4, Insightful)

    by vlm (69642) on Friday February 01, 2013 @03:20PM (#42764005)

    No need for the VR hardware BS, just ask a DM / GM about how their players behave after leveling up. In fact you need a correction factor for "3 dimensional thinking" vs "2 dimensional thinking". Think how cranky Kahn was in ST:2 and his legendary two-dimensional thinking.

    I think you need to correct the study for happiness, although how you'd do it without bias is a mystery. Its probably easy to half ass it, like most soft sciences.

    • I need mod points (Score:5, Insightful)

      by pushing-robot (1037830) on Friday February 01, 2013 @04:01PM (#42764567)

      Thank you for being the first person to state the obvious here.

      Oh, and let me paraphrase the summary:

      We gave one group of subjects strawberry ice cream cones. We gave a second group dry spaghetti noodles.

      Afterward, members of the first group were more willing to do us a favor than members of the second group.

      Therefore, we conclude that there is a link between strawberries and altruistic behavior.

      • Great summary.

        FTA: "the final sample included 30 females and 30 males"
        So one group of scientists tested 60 people, one time.

        If this exact study was repeated multiple times by different scientists with different subjects it might show an actual correlation,
        but 60 people is a ridiculously small sample size to draw any conclusions from.

  • by deathcloset (626704) on Friday February 01, 2013 @03:21PM (#42764021) Journal
    For the majority of us, the vast majority of our day involves saying "hi", smiling, putting things in the trashbin, paying for our lunch, holding the door open for someone, thinking about hanging out with friends over the weekend and other stuff which is just plain good. We call it 'neutral', but most of it is good. So when given extra power, we tend to do good things with it...at least at first. When someone wins the lottery or gets a big bonus, they tend to throw a party and buy stuff for themselves AND their friends. Doing nice things makes us feel good. Thinking of harming others is just not pleasant for most of us. Thinking of bad things is not pleasant. I believe we do, however, spend a lot of time thinking about bad things, and so we tend to get this false feeling that everything and everyone else is bad. It's that whole opposite charges attract deal. Because people are so generally good, we have a strange attraction to generally bad things. But generally we're good.
    • by oodaloop (1229816) on Friday February 01, 2013 @03:54PM (#42764485)
      If you've ever raised a 2-year old, you'd know we're not inherently good, but trained to be good by our parents and other members of society. Kids will lie, cheat, and steal unless corrected, reprimanded, punished, and told how to behave themselves.
      • by Immerman (2627577)

        Actually it's not that simple - a two year old is more accurately thought of as a larval human than simply a completely uneducated miniature adult from which we can make judgements about human nature - As one example they still lack the brain mechanism that allows them to project themselves into the perspective of someone else, the so called "mirror circuits" that allow them to recognize that the universe they see/know about is fundamentally different than the one that you see/know about. Example: Child A

    • When someone wins the lottery or gets a big bonus, they tend to throw a party and buy stuff for themselves AND their friends.

      Exactly but my thought on reading the article is perhaps it is far more fun to be flying around the city by yourself rather than being stuck in a helicopter (which may have frustrating controls). If so perhaps all this experiment has shown is that when people are happy and content they are more willing to help out. Conversely if you have been frustrated and are unhappy you are probably less likely to be thinking about helping others.

    • But... but... corporations are people my friend. So are you extending it to "corporations are generally good" too?
    • by Hatta (162192)

      We call it 'neutral', but most of it is good.

      The only thing required for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.

      Thinking of harming others is just not pleasant for most of us. Thinking of bad things is not pleasant.

      Most people handle this by just not thinking about the harm they do, whether intentional or not.

    • Yes, people are generally good and desire to help.

      However, the cancellation of City of Heroes just fills me with desire to hurt.

    • You just described the daily routine of many war criminals and the leaders of any awful destructive corporation of your choosing.

    • by fikx (704101)
      Doing the things you describe do not show people are generally good. People are generally cooperative and social as a survival adaptation. Not trying to sound too pessimistic, but my point is you need to look a little deeper than your examples to find good in people. You're doing a huge disservice to truly good people by your comment.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    I've sat here and thought about it for a few minutes, and I don't quite understand...

    I can kinda understand how giving someone a virtual superpower might translate to someone briefly feeling "empowered" and "superheroic" once they leave the VR, which would cause them to want to help the researcher who spilled his pens.

    Could someone explain, however, how you could field this into treating a disorder such as PTSD?

    I'd tend to think it would be more appropriate to use against borderline sociopathic disorders, e

    • Wouldn't giving a sociopath simulated superpowers just turn him into a supervillain though? Forget the pens, he'd smash the coffee-maker!
      • I think that was the question posed by H.G. Wells: "Does power corrupt?" or do people have latent tendencies that are brought about by extraordinary circumstances?

        At any rate, is I think this study is stupid. Wouldn't experiencing a VR simulation where the test subject has the opportunity to be kind to someone be sufficient stimulus? How can they distinguish between that and the experience of having superpowers?

        • At any rate, is I think this study is stupid. Wouldn't experiencing a VR simulation where the test subject has the opportunity to be kind to someone be sufficient stimulus? How can they distinguish between that and the experience of having superpowers?

          No, because they did control for that. People flying a helicopter saving kids did not help with the pens afterwards. Meanwhile, people given superpowered flight who did not save kids were as likely to help with the pens as people given superpowered flight who did save kids.

          • How is that a control? I don't understand the significance of flying in helicopter? What does that mean?

            • Because it shows it's not about "doing simulated kindness means you do real-life kindness". It's about "having simulated superpowers means you do real-life kindness". Everyone was flying - half in a helicopter and half with superpowers. The people in helicopters did not show kindness in real life, regardless of whether or not they had in VR. The people with superpowers did show kindness in real life, regardless of whether or not they had in VR.

              The method of flight proved to be the important variable, no

  • So the real measuring point of the experiment wasn't until after all the VR stuff. The researcher would "accidentally" drop some pens. Interestingly structured.

    Gotta stay hyperaware of everybody and everything these days. If, as I suspect without reading the article, the test subjects were a bunch of college students, then they were probably not yet sufficiently cynical to watch out for that kind of treatment.

    • by Agent ME (1411269)

      Those poor, unsuspecting college students, secretly forced to possibly help someone pick up some pens!

  • Someone accidentally their experiment.
  • They concluded that actively flying and doing good results in a tendency to do good after the game. I think it is more likely has to do with a spectator/participant frame of mind.
    • Actually, the summery at least, clearly states that the only effect their measures was that giving virtual super powers resulted in increased likelihood to help pick up the pens.

      The group flying around in helicopters saving children apparently did not get this and the group flying around using super powers but not saving children got the same results as the other super power wielders.

      • BUT the "superman" group had direct control while the helicopter group just rode around...too bad they didn't have a group that flew their own helicopter (with arcadey controls).

  • The results have researchers wondering if our brains might react to the memory of a virtual experience as though it had really happened.

    Duhh, just like dreaming, which is a virtual experience? Haven't they shown MRIs of people dreaming (or even THINKING of past events) that show the exact same parts of the brain being used as if they're experiencing something real? What is new in this?

    If so, we may be able to use virtual reality and gaming to effectively treat psychological disorders such as PTSD.

    Duhh, a

  • if
    "we may be able to use virtual reality and gaming to effectively treat psychological disorders such as PTSD."
    then
    does this imply that VR and gaming (the violent kind) can cause psychological disorders as well.

    • by mark-t (151149)

      Are you new here?

      It's not polite in these parts to even a hint that there might be a correlation between playing violent video games and negatively aberrant behavior. At the very least, you'll be asked to cite half a dozen studies which show it... and you'll have to cross check those studies against any other studies done since which may have directly controverted the conclusions of said studies, and make sure to be sure that any studies you do cite have not been disputed.

      So... no.

  • But if they can show that virtual reality and games can have a positive affect on the mental state of people, you can't tell me the reverse isn't true.

  • From what I've read (but don't know first hand), when a woman straps something on to obtain super-powers she becomes a whole different animal.

  • "The results have researchers wondering if our brains might react to the memory of a virtual experience as though it had really happened."

    Fuck off. I distinctly recall fucking about 2/3 the women in Hollywood over the years.

  • The existence of gankers.

    Seriously. Retune the simulation that you have to option to help, or harm, innocent on-line simulated NPCs. Give some of the test subjects superpowers. See how many of them use their powers to ruin one or more simulated persons' day. And then see if those superpowers makes them a happy, smiley, helpful person IRL.

  • VR might be helpfull but on the other hand it may do more harm than good. The more this technology develops the more problems it will create. We already have people who "live" on the internet and if you will enchance their experiances it might even get worse in the future. So moderation in applying new ideas is a must.
    • VR might be helpfull but on the other hand it may do more harm than good. The more this technology develops the more problems it will create. We already have people who "live" on the internet and if you will enchance their experiances it might even get worse in the future. So moderation in applying new ideas is a must.

      It is kind of ironic that you are posting on Slashdot about the dangers of "living on the internet"... But this whole moderation approach to new ideas has its drawbacks too. That's the Amish philosophy on new technology. Anyway, in the future, everyone will live on the internet all the time. Everyone with a smartphone already does. Living on the internet has greatly improved humanity.

  • ... the outrage can hardly be contained. But when linked to positive behavior, people are tripping over each other to go "of course, obviously". Little bias, perhaps?
  • I heard about a project where Virtual Reality was used to help burn patients suffer less. They participate in a VR world called SnowWorld Link http://www.hitl.washington.edu/projects/vrpain/ [washington.edu] and a report about it http://www.npr.org/2012/02/12/146775049/virtual-penguins-a-prescription-for-pain [npr.org]

    The reduction in pain for the patients was significant and consistent. I had first heard of this when NPR was talking about soldiers returning from Iraq and how this helped them deal with pain. It's amazing what this ki

  • From the study: In the super flight condition, participants controlled their flight through the VR environment. In the two helicopter conditions, participants were merely told that they were to be a passenger in a helicopter and their task would be explained once immersed in virtual reality. Their field of view varied only as a function of their head movements (i.e., they did not control translation of the helicopter but could look around the vehicle and out the window). Both flights were through an empty,

I've never been canoeing before, but I imagine there must be just a few simple heuristics you have to remember... Yes, don't fall out, and don't hit rocks.

Working...