Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item: https://hdl.handle.net/10356/156158
Title: The effects of nature in virtual reality on psychological wellbeing
Authors: Chan, Sarah Hian May
Keywords: Social sciences::Psychology::Experimental psychology
Issue Date: 2021
Publisher: Nanyang Technological University
Source: Chan, S. H. M. (2021). The effects of nature in virtual reality on psychological wellbeing. Doctoral thesis, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore. https://hdl.handle.net/10356/156158
Abstract: Virtual reality (VR) has grown increasingly popular in recent years. Limited research has shown that nature in VR improves psychological wellbeing, but the underlying mechanisms remain unclear. There are also concerns that VR nature may exacerbate the growing disconnect that people feel towards real nature. This thesis investigates the effects of VR nature on psychological wellbeing and examines its impact on our relationship with the natural world. Four experimental studies were conducted. Study 1 used a within-subject design to examine the effects of VR nature on affect and stress in an undergraduate sample. Participants experienced a virtual forest (nature condition) and virtual street (control condition). Results showed that VR nature reduced negative affect, and this effect was mediated by an enhanced sense of nature connectedness. Participants also showed lower physiological stress during the virtual nature walk. Study 2 was a conceptual replication of Study 1 with a senior citizen sample. Results showed that VR nature increased positive affect, and this effect was again mediated by an enhanced sense nature connectedness. Study 3 used a mixed environment to examine the effects of urban nature. The study used a between-subject design and manipulated the presence or absence of plants in a virtual urban setting. Participants were randomly assigned to walk in a virtual street with buildings covered in plants (plant condition) or painted green (control condition), while simultaneously being exposed to heavy traffic noise (stressor). Results showed that the plant condition prevented a reduction in positive affect and prevented an increase of physiological stress, compared to the control condition. Finally, Study 4 used a control condition that was matched in restorativeness and expands on the previous studies to investigate the effects of VR nature on attitudes towards real nature. Participants were randomly assigned to explore a virtual natural environment (nature condition) or a virtual art museum (control condition). Results showed that VR nature increased nature connectedness which in turn led to higher positive affect, pro-environmental attitudes, and intention to engage with real nature. Presence was a significant moderator such that these effects were strongest at high presence. Overall, the above studies showed that VR nature improves psychological wellbeing in important ways. Experiencing VR nature can foster stronger nature connectedness, protect against stressors, and improve attitudes towards real nature.
URI: https://hdl.handle.net/10356/156158
DOI: 10.32657/10356/156158
Rights: This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License (CC BY-NC 4.0).
Fulltext Permission: open
Fulltext Availability: With Fulltext
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