Changing vaccination behavior with Virtual Reality

In this project we use experiences in Virtual Reality to help people understand (and care about) herd immunity. Instead of just having the idea explained to them, participants play a role in scenarios that show how herd immunity works, and help them empathize with vulnerable people who depend on it to stay healthy. Our latest study was reported on by Reuters, and featured on news outlets around the world.

In 2019, the World Health Organization concluded that vaccine hesitancy was one of the biggest threats to global health. Part of the reason why people feel unsure about getting vaccinated is that they do not fully understand how their vaccination would help others. Each vaccinated person is not only keeping themselves healthy, but is also making sure the disease can’t spread to others who aren’t yet vaccinated themselves—an effect called herd immunity or community protection. When people better understand herd immunity their vaccination intentions are boosted.

We are currently developing and testing different VR experiences, to investigate what works. Different scenarios may work well for different people. The VR storylines that we have tested include a busy square that participants need to cross without infecting others—or getting infected themselves; and a visit to the doctor’s office in the shoes of a vulnerable patient.

You can take a look at previews of the VR experiences; learn more about the team; and find publications related to the project.

Photo: SELF Magazine.