Virtual Reality Techniques for Eliciting Empathy and Cultural Awareness: Affective Human-Virtual World Interaction
On the average human beings have about 50,000 thoughts every day. If we consider that thoughts influence how we feel there is little doubt that the way we perceive reality will strongly correlate with how we act upon that reality. Let’s contextualize this thinking process within the realm of global business where interacting with individuals from other cultural backgrounds is the norm. Our own perceptions and stereotypes towards those cultural groups will strongly influence how we interact with them in business situations. The problem is that stereotypes, being cognitive shortcuts, not necessarily accurately represent intentions. Stereotypes provide us with a false sense of security enabling us to believe that we “understand” the reasons behind certain actions and reactions. This false sense of security often results in conflict in global business situations. That is one of the reasons why becoming globally competent without falling into stereotyping will provide us with the tools to increase success in cross-cultural business interactions.
This paper describes an approach to design a virtual reality (VR) scenarios aimed at developing abilities to work across cultures using the principles of empathy and perspective taking. The approach we are taking in this design innovation paper moves away from only using the understanding of cultural dimensions in cultural competence skills development as research shows that focusing on “preconceived” differences in cultures can enhance stereotyping. Instead our approach provides users with the opportunity of exploring the thought process as a character in first person whose cultural background is different from that of the user. This scenarios provide opportunities for perspective taking which is conducive to empathy across cultures.
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