Madis Vasser is a psychology student at University of Tartu Virtual Neuroscience Lab, and he collaborated with the computer science department to create a VR toolbox for doing experimental psychology research. He was showing off a demo of a change blindness experiment that he created within Unity at the IEEE VR conference.
Change blindness is the effect where it is difficult to notice changes in your virtual environment. It’s not easy to make objects disappear in our physical reality, and so we’ve evolved to not really notice subtle changes in our physical environment. But in VR, it’s very easy to make small changes to your environment that are really difficult to perceive.
The VR experience called Sightline really exploits this psychological phenomena to great effect to be able to cut between scenes in VR. So even though I’m intellectually familiar with the change blindness concept, when I tried out my own perceptual acuity in a controlled experiment I still found it to be an effect that was way more difficult to perceive than I would have expected. Here’s more results from Madis’ change blindness research.
Maris talks about creating a generalized VR toolkit for non-programming psychology students to do other research projects, as well as some of the ethical implications of replicating controversial psychological experiments like the Milgram obedience experiment. While no ethics review board would allow psychological students to replicate this study, there’s nothing preventing people from recreating the experience in a VR experience. There are many open ethical questions around this that will be interesting to see how they play out both in more controlled research environments, but all the free market of consumer VR experiences.
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