• Article

Using immersive virtual reality to study and change health-related behavior

Immersive virtual reality (VR) is seeing a rapid rise in consumer popularity, but its potential to enhance health and well-being is largely untapped by researchers. Primarily discussed as a gaming and entertainment technology, it has several inherent characteristics that fill important needs in behavioral medicine research and practice. For example, VR environments can provide several benefits to researchers, including: manipulation of contextual factors via highly controlled experimental conditions, realistic environments that allow participants to practice behaviors before doing enacting them in the real world, and facilitating embodiment and immersion experiences that can support positive emotions and behavior. In addition, it provides the opportunity to collect unique behavioral data that would be impossible in real world contexts, helping researchers triangulate behavior change data. It can be flexibly applied to rigorous experimental studies, support learning of new behaviors as a training tool, and used as an outcome assessment tool. This symposium will raw on the findings and experiences of three VR research programs. These three innovative research presentations will illustrate the important potential advantages of VR technology use in arenas relevant to behavioral medicine researchers. These projects also represent different points in the lifecycle of VR tool development, from preliminary assessment, to validation, and finally to clinical application.


Lewis, M., Wagner, L. K., Persky, S., Bordnick, P., & Riley, W. (2018). Using immersive virtual reality to study and change health-related behavior. Annals of Behavioral Medicine, 52, S663.