Becoming Other; Virtual Embodiment – Blurring the Self-Other Binary

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School of Arts, Design and Architecture | G5 Artikkeliväitöskirja & Esseeväitöskirja
Degree programme
93 + app. 113
Aalto University publication series DOCTORAL DISSERTATIONS, 168/2020
The research presented here explores the impact of virtual reality (VR) and virtual embodiment technologies on the distinction between ‘self and other’ in interpersonal and intergroup contexts. In a series of five empirical experiments and three art projects, I investigated this self- other distinction in the context of the ever-evolving relationship between technology and the self. Using stereoscopic 180º video, I explore the impact of virtual encounters transitioning from meeting others to becoming ‘the other.’ The first study shows that meeting in VR a person who shares a painful story elicits a high degree of empathetic care and facial synchrony. The next study shows that experiencing ingroup aggression from an outgroup perspective increases empathy towards the outgroup compared to seeing the same scenario from the ingroup’s perspective. Next, I present an art project devising a novel and effective technique to induce virtual embodiment using 180º stereoscopic video, followed by empirical evaluation and validation of this technique. Next, I show that meeting yourself in virtual reality as an experimental paradigm can increase self-compassion. And finally, in a VR museum installation, I demonstrate the potential of VR for social impact. This manuscript explores various VR methods of placing participants “in others’ shoes” and provides both new insights and novel methods for using VR and virtual embodiment forstorytelling, art installations, and social interventions.
Supervising professor
Diaz-Kommonen, Lily, Prof., Aalto University, Department of Media, Finland
Thesis advisor
Doron Friedman, Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya
Diaz-Kommonen, Lily, Prof., Aalto University, Department of Media, Finland
virtual reality, empathy, virtual embodiment, perspective taking, intergroup flict, techno-self, body ownership illusion
Other note
  • [Publication 1]: Cohen, Daniela and Landau, Daniel H.; Friedman, Doron; Hasler, Béatrice S.; Levit-Binnun, Nava; Golland, Yulia: Exposure to social suffering in virtual reality boosts compassion and facial synchrony. Accepted pending revision, Accepted July 27, 2020, Computers in Human Behavior
  • [Publication 2]: Yossi Hasson, Noa Schori-Eyal, Daniel Landau, Béatrice S. Hasler, Jonathan Levy, Doron Friedman, Eran Halperin: The Enemy’s Gaze: Immersive Virtual Environments Enhance Peace Promoting Attitudes and Emotions in Violent Intergroup Conflicts. September 11, 2019, PLOS ONE.
    DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0222342 View at publisher
  • [Publication 3]: Béatrice S. Hasler, Daniel Landau, Yossi Hasson, Noa Schori-yal, Jonathan Giron, Jonathan Levy, Eran Halperin, and Doron Friedman: Virtual Reality-based Conflict Resolution: The Impact of Immersive 360° Video on Changing View-Points and Moral Judgment in the Context of Violent Intergroup Conflict Accepted May 2020, New Media and Society
  • [Publication 4]: Daniel H. Landau, Béatrice S. Hasler, Doron Friedman: Virtual Embodiment using 180º Stereoscopic Video. June 07, 2020 Frontiers in Psychology articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2020.01229/full
  • [Publication 5]: Daniel Landau: Meeting Yourself in Virtual Reality: A Performative Experiment in Self-Compassion, Leuven University Press, shifting Interfaces. An Anthology of Presence, Empathy, and Agency in 21st Century Media Art May 29, 2020,