The 360º Virtual Scenario Method

360º Virtual Scenario Method

The 360º Virtual Scenario Method research program aims to remedy some of the defects of the traditional written scenario (or “vignette”) method by employing immersive 360º video. This immersive method is based on the as­sump­tion that the commonly used written scenarios lack contextual detail and are unlikely to capture the more visceral and emotional aspects that surround real-world offending, which commonly occurs during “hot” and al­tered states of mind. Additionally, the ten-to-fifteen-line narrative of the standard scenario is unlikely to ade­quately reflect the complex reality of real-life decision-making situations and to realistically incorporate important nuances of social experience.

Rather than asking participants to imagine themselves in a specific situation on the basis of a short narrative, a virtual scenario perceptually immerses them in it. The 360º Virtual Scenario Method research program seeks to validate a stimulus set containing different immersive scenarios in a bar-room setting. Our current research fo­cuses on the effect of emotions and affective states, i.e., anger and sexual arousal, on aggressive behavior and bystander/guardianship behavior. Furthermore, we study the situational and dispositional characteristics that underlie both behaviors using in-VR and regular surveys, physiological measurements, and eye tracking.

The stimulus set will be made available for research and replication purposes.
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Using Virtual Reality to Study Aggressive Behavior in a Barroom Setting

The effect of emotions on decision making is a fixture of daily life. Although some emotions, like fear, can sharpen senses and focus decisions, other affective states, like anger, can bias judgements and make people behave in a way that is not in their self-interest. This is because emotional experiences produce intense motivations towards goal-oriented be­hav­ior. A growing research literature suggests that, like the decision to engage in other risky be­hav­iors, the decision to engage in crime can likewise be influenced by emotional experiences. However, because crime cannot easily be examined in laboratory or real-world settings (for ethical and safety reasons), this research has been limited to the use of traditional survey methodology, which cannot capture the degree to which a po­ten­tial criminal actually experi­ences an emotional state within a criminal opportunity. In contrast, VR scenarios im­merse study participants in envi­ron­ments that more closely reflect “real‑world” settings where crimes occur. The focus of this project is to further explore the influence of two criminogenic emotions: anger and sexual arousal. To test the effect of these affective states on crime decisions, we are developing two virtual scenarios – one present­ing the opportunity to engage in a bar fight, the other presenting the opportunity to intervene to prevent a sexual assault. Our goal is to assess whether elements of the scenario induce emotional responses in our study partici­pants that subsequently shape behavioral intentions to act aggressively.


Selected Publications

Jean-Louis Van Gelder, Reinout E. De Vries, Iris Van Sintemaartensdijk, and Tara Donker, "Personality pathways to aggression: testing a trait-state model using immersive technology," Criminology , 1-23 (2022).
Jean-Louis Van Gelder, Reinout E. De Vries, Andrew Demetriou, Iris Van Sintemaartensdijk, and Tara Donker, "The Virtual Reality Scenario Method: Moving from Imagination to Immersion in Criminal Decision-making Research," Journal of research in crime and delinquency 56 (3), 451-480 (2019).


A Virtual Night Out - Using Virtual Reality to Study Aggressive Behavior

What influence do emotions – such as anger, fear, and excitement – have on our decisions, and do they alter whether or not people engage in crime and violence? This is the fascinating question being investigated by the researchers at the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Crime, Security and Law.



A Study of Virtual Bar Fights

Guest: Tim Barnum • 09/2021
In this episode Christopher Murphy sits down with Timothy Barnum to talk about good old-fashioned bar fights, with a particular empha­sis on the emotions and heated decisions that can lead to them erupting. Tim explains how an immersive, virtual-reality scenario using 360-degree video is currently being used to better understand what really goes on in our heads during such intense decision-making encounters.

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