VR in Social Science

Robert Koch, April 2022

The social sciences are a wide range of different fields, but some social scientists have been studying interpersonal interaction in VR environments when compared to face-to-face interaction. Given the context of the Covid-19 pandemic, new modes of digital interaction have emerged, and recent attention towards companies like Meta investing in VR as social spaces has generated renewed interest in studying the social science of VR.

Environments and Avatars

For more than a decade, social science researchers have examined how virtual environments and avatars affect interaction between users in online spaces (see this article from 2009). Given the recent developments in the application of VR as a social space, there will likely be new research in this area in the coming years.

Roles of VR

The aforementioned article describes three different roles that VR takes on in different instances:

  • VR as an Object refers to VR's direct effects on the human users who enter virtual environments

  • VR as an Application refers to VR being applied to different functions in society, such as medical training

  • VR as a Method refers to the use of VR to study human behavior and social interaction