Putting yourself in the skin of a black avatar reduces implicit racial bias

Tabitha C. Peck, Sofia Seinfeld, Salvatore M. Aglioti, Mel Slater

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Although it has been shown that immersive virtual reality (IVR) can be used to induce illusions of ownership over a virtual body (VB), information on whether this changes implicit interpersonal attitudes is meager. Here we demonstrate that embodiment of light-skinned participants in a dark-skinned VB significantly reduced implicit racial bias against dark-skinned people, in contrast to embodiment in light-skinned, purple-skinned or with no VB. 60 females participated in this between-groups experiment, with a VB substituting their own, with full-body visuomotor synchrony, reflected also in a virtual mirror. A racial Implicit Association Test (IAT) was administered at least three days prior to the experiment, and immediately after the IVR exposure. The change from pre- to post-experience IAT scores suggests that the dark-skinned embodied condition decreased implicit racial bias more than the other conditions. Thus, embodiment may change negative interpersonal attitudes and thus represent a powerful tool for exploring such fundamental psychological and societal phenomena.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)779-787
Number of pages9
JournalConsciousness and Cognition
Volume22
Issue number3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2013

Keywords

  • Body ownership
  • Embodiment
  • IAT
  • Implicit Association Test
  • Racial bias
  • Virtual environment
  • Virtual reality

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology

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