Can VR make you rethink toilet paper or eating meat?

Stanford University's Jeremy Bailenson is studying ways to create "virtual worlds that can make the world a better place" based on the premise that actions in virtual worlds can alter real-world behavior.

As seen in the PBS NewsHour segment above, Bailenson conducts virtual reality experiments whose participants may think differently about real-world behavior like using unrecycled toilet paper after cutting down a virtual tree or eating beef after role-playing as a cow led to slaughter.

Bailenson is the founding director of Stanford University's Virtual Human Interaction Lab, which both studies the "dynamics and implications of interactions among people in immersive virtual reality simulations" and creates its own simulations to study.

Bailenson cites studies showing that violent video games make those who play it more violent in reality, and has studied alternate ways to change real world behavior through VR.

"I think of virtual reality like uranium," Bailenson said. "It can heat homes, and it can destroy nations."

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