“Curbing crime with 3D avatars and intelligent design”

European research magazine showcases FutureU project

March 20, 2023

A recent article in the EU Research & Innovation Magazine Horizon profiles the FutureU research project. Pub­lished under the title Curbing crime with 3D avatars and intelligent design, it spotlights a novel and scalable be­hav­ioral intervention to increase the future-orientation of young offenders by connecting them to their future self.

The project is premised on the well-established notion that delin­quents often live like there is no tomorrow because that tomorrow is not cognitively present in their minds. The intervention uses virtual reality and a smart­phone application to present late adolescents and young adults with a simulated version of their future self and allows them to interact with this future self. The aim: to make them more aware of the impact that actions and decisions in the present can have on their future self.

According to Jean-Louis van Gelder, "if people care more about their future selves, we think they will be less likely to engage in delinquent behavior in the present." He is director at Germany's Max Planck Institute for the Study of Crime, Security and Law und professor of criminology at Leiden University in the Netherlands.

"The interesting thing is that people give themselves very sound advice generally," Van Gelder told Horizon. “People tend to tell themselves to stop committing crime or to be more disciplined or to look for a job."

The behavioral changes have not been immense so far, but the reduction in self-defeating behavior that has been seen up to now tells the researchers that they are on the right track. "So our hope is that getting advice from themselves will be more convincing than getting advice from other people."

  • The article appeared in Horizon: The EU Research & Innovation Magazine on 15 March 2023. Read the full article here.
  • A podcast featuring FutureU doctoral researcher Aniek Siezenga and including selected project publications is available at: department-of-criminology/projects/future-u.

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