Virtual Pub Visit for Research Purposes

Scientists from Freiburg create virtual world to study the influence of emotions on criminal actions

July 07, 2021

What influence do emotions have on our decisions? Are we more likely to commit a criminal act when we are angry? A team of researchers led by Freiburg criminologist Jean-Louis van Gelder is investigating these and other questions.

Criminologists from the Max Planck Institute in Freiburg create virtual reality scenarios to study the influence of emotions on people’s interpretations and reactions to aggressive situations in a barroom setting. Specifically, the study consists of two scenarios aimed at examining the extent emotional responses to provocation motivate aggressive behavior, and whether emotions related to witnessing others being physically or sexually assaulted influences their willingness to intervene.

What influence do emotions have on our decisions? Are we more likely to commit an aggressive act when we are angry? What motivates us to intervene when we witness someone being victimized?

It is hardly possible to answer such questions with research studies in the real world. Assault, whether it be physical or sexual can neither be studied in a laboratory nor in reality - if only for ethical reasons. Conventional surveys among (potential) offenders are also out of the question, as emotions cannot be aroused and analyzed retrospectively. Virtual reality is a viable option for such investigations by presenting a reality in which study participants can immerse themselves in a setting that seems very real - to the extent that emotions can be generated, and the resulting behavior studied effectively.

For the research project The 360º Virtual Scenario Method, two virtual scenarios have been created that are set in a pub. On 28 and 29 June, the production work for the Virtual World Scenarios took place in Amsterdam. From autumn 2021 we will seek study participants.


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