Virtual nature, mindfulness, and the potential for altruism
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This research set out to examine whether the experience of beautiful nature in a virtual reality setting could evoke altruistic behaviour in people. 24 healthy adult participants took part in this research experiment. Participants in the experimental group experienced a virtual nature setting while participants in the control group experienced a virtual city setting. Following a virtual experience each participant took part in an experimental economics game designed to measure altruism. Levels of individual trait mindfulness and individual differences in tendency to perceive natural beauty were measured before the experiment. The results did not support the primary hypothesis that a virtual nature experience would be associated with higher levels of altruistic behaviour when compared to a control setting. Participants across both conditions showed an overwhelming tendency to behave altruistically following the virtual experience. The results also showed that those individuals who are more mindful displayed a greater tendency to engage with natural beauty. Thus it appears to be more the more mindful person who is engaging with natural beauty and experiencing positive psychological wellbeing. Applications include using virtual nature as a healing tool to increase wellbeing for individuals whose circumstances deprive them of nature experiences in the real world.
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