In my previous research, I was concerned with the investigation of this interpersonal and psychological distance using VR. VR allows the creation of highly controlled and realistic conditions. For example, I was able to show that people with psychopathic traits have difficulties in regulating their interpersonal distance to virtual persons and that this is because they did not exhibit an appropriate avoidance reaction to social threats. With my studies in the context of VR, personality, and social interaction, I did preliminary work for the use of VR in the diagnosis and therapy of psychological disorders and the expansion of the repertoire of methods in basic psychological research. The potential of this preliminary work was demonstrated by successful publications in leading journals such as “Clinical Psychological Science” and “European Eating Disorders Review”. Here, I combine my knowledge on social perception and movement science and extend my work to support psychotherapy and psychiatric diagnosis within a framework of Approach-Avoidance Theory.
At the moment, I am developing novel social interaction paradigms in Augmented Reality. Here, a virtual person can appear within a given natural space, e.g. your home. My first pilot studies indicate that non-verbal behaviour, such as distance behaviour, is likewise highly relevant in Augmented Reality and that virtual agents carry high levels of social presence. For example, subjects keep a personal space and, similar to studies in real and completely virtual environments, when they meet an augmented person.
I believe that using virtual reality and augmented reality to meet people in the metaverse can help reduce our environmental impact due to travel. By using these technologies, we can connect with others without having to leave our homes, which means we’ll use less energy and produce fewer emissions. Therefore, research in this area can contribute to solving the issue of mobility in the climate crisis.