Award Name

Senior Award Winner

Author Information

Lena-Phuong Tran, Pitzer

Award Date



Research on the Rubber Hand Illusion (RHI) has recently begun to explore induced body ownership exercises as a means for experimentally changing implicit social attitudes. Similarly, recent innovations in Virtual Reality (VR) have lead researchers to begin investigating VR as a tool for empathy training and perspective taking. The present study addresses these two fields of research by replicating the RHI in VR, with the goal of inducing body ownership over virtual hands of racial outgroups. A race Implicit Association Test was administered to measure racial biases before and after the illusion. It was predicted that participants who experienced the illusion with the virtual hand of a race different than their own would show greater changes in performance on the post-illusion Implicit Association Test. By and large, results did not show a significant difference between the different hand conditions, though there was a marginally significant effect of racial membership on the strength of ownership during the illusion. Future research should focus on assessing pre-existing implicit attitudes, in order to clarify the question concerning which types of people benefit the most from these body ownership exercises that aim to change social biases.

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