UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Fostering empathy through intergenerational storytelling in embodied virtual reality Shen, Chenxinran


Adopting the perspective of another person can enhance one's understanding of that individual, which can be especially valuable in the context of intergenerational communication. However, it can be challenging to achieve this shift in perspective. We explored leveraging the Proteus Effect -- behaviour and perspective modulation in Embodied VR -- with the aim of improving younger adults’ understanding and empathy of their older family members’ life experiences. We asked younger adults to adopt the identity of their older family members at different ages through avatar swapping under several conditions. We collected rich qualitative data from 10 participants (5 dyads with a one-generation gap), and analyzed the data using reflexive thematic analysis. Our work suggests: 1) important design considerations for a VR setup that can facilitate intergenerational communication and lead to greater empathy; 2) the manner in which this VR setup affects both older adults and younger adults individually within the same familial context; and 3) the extent to which this VR setup shapes their mutual understanding and their relationship dynamics. Our work contributes a novel approach to bridging intergenerational communication.

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