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#1 mixingitup

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Posted 03 April 2008 - 06:58 PM

I thought this article was interesting for a couple of reasons. One being that I would love to go to Second Life but I can't with dial-up. Anything to do with virtual reality intrigues me until I'm able to go there. The other thing is how people react to other people. After reading this, I'll have to pay more attention to how I'm mentally reacting to people.
Paranoia rife among us, researchers say

Par­a­noia af­flicts as many as one in three peo­ple, re­search­ers have con­clud­ed based on a study us­ing vir­tu­al real­ity. The new in­ves­ti­ga­t­ion sought to solve the prob­lem by put­ting vol­un­teers through a vir­tu­al sub­way or un­der­ground ride to gauge par­a­noid ten­den­cies.

“Para­noid thoughts are of­ten trig­gered by am­big­u­ous events such as peo­ple look­ing in one’s di­rec­tion or hear­ing laugh­ter in a room, but it is very dif­fi­cult to rec­re­ate such so­cial in­ter­ac­tions,” said Dan­iel Free­man of King’s Col­lege Lon­don, who led the study.

Wear­ing head­sets to be im­mersed in the vir­tu­al en­vi­ron­ment, 200 vol­un­teers cho­sen to be broadly rep­re­sent­a­tive of the gen­er­al popula­t­ion walked around a vir­tu­al Lon­don un­der­ground car in a four-minute trip be­tween sta­t­ion stops.

The car­riage con­tained what the re­search­ers said were neu­tral com­put­er peo­ple, called av­a­tars, that breathed, looked around, and some­times met the gaze of the par­ti­ci­pants. One av­a­tar read a news­pa­per, anoth­er would oc­ca­sion­ally smile if looked at. A sound­track of a train car­riage was played.

Free­man and col­leagues found that the par­ti­ci­pants in­ter­preted the same com­put­er char­ac­ters very dif­fer­ently. The most com­mon re­ac­tion was to find the vir­tu­al real­ity char­ac­ters friendly or neu­tral, but al­most 40 per­cent of the par­ti­ci­pants ex­pe­ri­enced at least one par­a­noid thought, said Free­man.

The in­ves­ti­ga­tors as­sessed par­ti­ci­pants be­fore the “ride,” and found that those who were anx­ious, wor­ried, fo­cused on the worst-case sce­nar­i­os and had low self-es­teem were most likely get par­a­noid.

Com­ments about the vir­tu­al real­ity char­ac­ters by par­ti­ci­pants who ex­pe­ri­enced par­a­noid thoughts in­clud­ed:

“There was a guy spook­ing me out – tried to get away from him. Did­n’t like his face. I’m sure he looked at me more than a cou­ple of times though might be im­ag­in­ing it.”

“A girl kept mov­ing her hand. Looked like she was a pick­pock­et and would pass it to the per­son stand­ing op­po­site her.”

“Felt trapped be­tween two men in the door­way. As a wom­an I’m a lot more sus­pi­cious of men. Did­n’t like the close proxim­ity of the men. The guy op­po­site may have had sex­u­al in­tent, ma­nipula­t­ion or what­ev­er.”

“There’s some­thing dodgy about one guy. Like he was about to do some­thing – as­sault some­one, plant a bom­b, say some­thing not nice to me, be ag­gres­sive.”

“In the past, only those with a se­vere men­tal ill­ness were thought to ex­pe­ri­ence par­a­noid thoughts, but now we know that this is simply not the case,” said Free­man. “About one-third of the gen­er­al popula­t­ion reg­u­larly ex­pe­ri­ence per­se­cu­to­ry thoughts. This should­n’t be sur­pris­ing. At the heart of all so­cial in­ter­ac­tions is a vi­tal judg­ment wheth­er to trust or mis­trust, but it is a judg­ment that is error-prone. We are more likely to make par­a­noid er­rors if we are anx­ious, ru­mi­nate and have had bad ex­pe­ri­ences from oth­ers.”

Free­man said par­a­noid thoughts are more likely to de­vel­op in set­tings such as on pub­lic trans­port, where peo­ple can feel trapped and watched, and can’t hear what oth­ers are say­ing. Peo­ple who feared ter­ror­ism un­der­ground tended to re­port more par­a­noid thoughts in the vir­tu­al train, pos­sibly re­flect­ing the after-effects of the Lon­don bom­bings on July 7, 2005, he added. But the re­search­ers al­so found that peo­ple who reg­u­larly used the Un­der­ground ex­pe­ri­enced few­er par­a­noid thoughts in the vir­tu­al train.
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