Research Reveals Virtual Reality (VR) Can Profile Your Personality AND Create Serious Health Problems

By B.N. Frank

Virtual Reality (VR) can cause balance issues, behavioral changes, cognitive problems, eye problems (soreness, vision changes), headaches, and more. 2018 research revealed that children who use VR absorb 2-5 times more radiation than adults. For those with privacy concerns, new research has also revealed that it can profile your personality.

From The Conversation:

How we discovered that VR can profile your personality

Virtual reality (VR) has the power to take us out of our surroundings and transport us to far-off lands. From a quick round of golf, to fighting monsters or going for a skydive, all of this can be achieved from the comfort of your home.

But it’s not just gamers who love VR and see its potential. VR is used a lot in psychology research to investigate areas such as social anxiety, moral decision-making and emotional responses. And in our new research we used VR to explore how people respond emotionally to a potential threat.

We knew from earlier work that being high up in VR provokes strong feelings of fear and anxiety. So we asked participants to walk across a grid of ice blocks suspended 200 metres above a snowy alpine valley.

We found that as we increased the precariousness of the ice block path, participants’ behaviour became more cautious and considered – as you would expect. But we also found that how people behave in virtual reality can provide clear evidence of their personality. In that we were able to pinpoint participants with a certain personality trait based on the way they behaved in the VR scenario.

While this may be an interesting finding, it obviously raises concerns in terms of people’s data. As technology companies could profile people’s personality via their VR interactions and then use this information to target advertising, for example. And this clearly raises concerns about how data collected through VR platforms can be used.

Virtual fall

As part of our study, we used head-mounted VR displays and handheld controllers, but we also attached sensors to people’s feet. These sensors allowed participants to test out a block before stepping onto it with both feet.

As participants made their way across the ice, some blocks would crack and change colour when participants stepped onto them with one foot or both feet. As the experiment progressed, the number of crack blocks increased.

We also included a few fall blocks. These treacherous blocks were identical to crack blocks until activated with both feet, when they shattered and participants experienced a short but uncomfortable virtual fall.

We found that as we increased the number of crack and fall blocks, participants’ behaviour became more cautious and considered. We saw a lot more testing with one foot to identify and avoid the cracks and more time spent considering the next move.

But this tendency towards risk-averse behaviour was more pronounced for participants with a higher level of a personality trait called neuroticism. People with high neuroticism are more sensitive to negative stimuli and potential threat.
Personality and privacy

We had participants complete a personality scale before performing the study. We specifically looked at neuroticism, as this measures the extent to which each person is likely to experience negative emotions such as anxiety and fear. And we found that participants with higher levels of neuroticism could be identified in our sample based on their behaviour. These people did more testing with one foot and spent longer standing on “safe” solid blocks when the threat was high.

Neuroticism is one of the five major personality traits most commonly used to profile people. These traits are normally assessed by a self-report questionnaire, but can also be assessed based on behaviour – as demonstrated in our experiment.

As advances in technology continue to develop, so too does the power of surveillance. insta_photos/Shutterstock

Our findings show how users of VR could have their personality profiled in a virtual world. This approach, where private traits are predicted based on implicit monitoring of digital behaviour, was demonstrated with a dataset derived from Facebook likes back in 2013. This paved the way for controversial commercial applications and the Cambridge Analytica scandal – when psychological profiles of users were allegedly harvested and sold to political campaigns. And our work demonstrates how the same approach could be applied to users of commercial VR headsets, which raises major concerns for people’s privacy.

Users should know if their data is being tracked, whether historical records are kept, whether data can be traced to individual accounts, along with what the data is used for and who it can be shared with. After all, we wouldn’t settle for anything less if such a comprehensive level of surveillance could be achieved in the real world.

Regarding these scientific findings, it seems unnecessary for future researchers to encourage neurotic people to use VR in order to study their behavior. In fact, doing so might be considered reckless, cruel, and even sadistic.

In regard to children’s use of VR, American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and other health experts warn that kids are more vulnerable to harm from exposure to wireless radiation and Blue Light from screens and other sources. In fact, no “safe” level of wireless radiation has been scientifically determined for children or pregnant women. Blue light exposure has been equated with near-sightedness, macular degeneration, blindness, premature aging, anxiety, and insomnia.

Additionally worrisome, exposure to all sources of wireless radiation can disrupt the blood-brain barrier, cause it to leak, and kill brain cells (see 1, 2). Regardless, some healthcare professionals still recommend VR for some therapies (see 1, 2) despite warnings from doctors and scientists.

Unfortunately, because of COVD-19 mandates, companies already known for privacy violations (like Facebook) are better able to market VR for educational, recreational and businesses purposes. Jeepers Creepers.

Activist Post reports regularly about unsafe technology. For more information, visit our archives.

Image: Pixabay

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