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Behav Ther. 2009 Dec;40(4):337-45. doi: 10.1016/j.beth.2008.09.002. Epub 2008 Oct 31.

Can virtual reality increase the realism of role plays used to teach college women sexual coercion and rape-resistance skills?

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Department of Psychology, Southern Methodist University, Dallas, TX 75275, USA.


The present study evaluated whether virtual reality (VR) can enhance the realism of role plays designed to help college women resist sexual attacks. Sixty-two female undergraduate students were randomly assigned to either the Role Play (RP) or Virtual Role Play (VRP) conditions, which were differentiated only by the use of VR technology in the VRP condition. A multimethod assessment strategy was used to evaluate the effects of VR on the experienced realism of sexually threatening role plays. Realism was assessed by participant self-reports of negative affect and perceptions of realism, direct observation of participants' verbal displays of negative affect during the role plays, and measurements of participant heart rate during the role plays. Results indicated that VR can indeed heighten the realism of sexually threatening role plays. Discussion focuses on issues regarding the use of VR-enhanced role plays for helping college women resist sexual attacks.

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