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Test shows VR can help lower the fear of death

Jan 26, 2017, 2:48 AM EST
(Source: Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas, University of Texas at Austin/flickr)
(Source: Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas, University of Texas at Austin/flickr)

The researchers from the University of Barcelona recently conducted a psychological experiment creating an illusion whereby the subjects felt their consciousness separated from their own body, a state that mimicked near-death experience. A post-experiment questionnaire revealed that the volunteers in the experiment group reported a significantly lower fear of dying compared to those in the control group.

In the experiment, 32 subjects were made to wear Oculus headsets and black suits, with a bunch of trackers and vibrators attached to their bodies, writes Engadget. With these devices, the subject could see their virtual self and be fooled to believe as if it is their own body.

From a top-of-the-room view, the volunteers saw balls being dropped on their virtual representation, with only half of them having their vibrators activated, notes Seeker. The volunteers, who were entirely disconnected from their virtual body – those whose vibrators were inactive – reported a significantly lower fear of dying compared to the other half, giving strength to the idea that virtual reality can help us confront our fear of death. 

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