Published January 30, 2014
A new study published in Psychiatry Today found that people who had their height “virtually lowered” felt inferior and mistrustful, Medical News Today reported.
British researchers studied a group of 60 adult women who used a virtual reality (VR) simulation to take two rides on the London Underground subway. On the first trip, the participant’s perceived height was unaltered, but on their second simulated trip, their perceived height was lowered by 9.84 inches.
The participants commented on their experience, and after the second ride, there was a significant increase in reports of negative feelings – such as incompetence, inferiority and feeling unlikeable. Respondents also showed an increase in feelings of paranoia toward other virtual “passengers” on the train. Most participants did not realize their height had been lowered for the second round of the simulation.
Researchers said that people mostly behave the same in a VR environment as they do in real life.
The researchers noted that the participants were women who “were prone to having mistrustful thoughts,” but they say the new study provides key insight into paranoia.
“[It shows] that people’s excessive mistrust of others directly builds upon their own negative feelings about themselves,” lead researcher Daniel Freeman, professor at the University of Oxford, told Medical News Today. “The important treatment implication for severe paranoia that we can take from this study is that if we help people to feel more self-confident, then they will be less mistrustful.”