Research Projects

IDL: The Effects of Virtual-Reality Inductions of Awe

Cassandra Vieten, PhD, Loren Carpenter
Status: In Progress

This project will be the first to gather neurophysiological data during a virtual reality induction of the overview effect, the first to synchronize that data with autonomic physiology, and the first to use compelling, immersive VR Overview Effect inductions to enhance embodiment and presence. It will be conducted by the Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination (“Clarke Center”) and funded by Conscious Space Economy (“CSE”).  Additional collaborators include the Swartz Center for Computational Neuroscience (“Swartz Center”), Heartmath Institute (“HMI”), and the Institute of Noetic Sciences (“IONS”).

We will study the effects of a virtual reality experience of the “overview effect” as induced in the laboratory, examining neurophysiological markers before, during and after the overview effect experience, as well as psychosocial outcomes.

Aim 1: Determine whether EEG and psychophysiological markers of an “overview effect” virtual reality awe induction are consistent with activation of the vagal system (as measured by heart rate variability (HRV), respiratory sinus arrhythmia (RSA) and shift from sympathetic to parasympathetic function.

Aim 2: Determine effects of the “overview effect” awe induction on perceptual tasks, mood, self-transcendence, sense of connection, and environmental awareness/concern.

We predict that the Edgar Mitchell Virtual Reality Overview Effect Experience (EMVRX) will result in subjective perceptions of awe, and will induce physiological markers of awe consistent with vagal activation and a shift from sympathetic to parasympathetic function. We also predict that the experience will shift performance on perceptual tasks (such as time estimation, creativity, remote viewing, and presentiment) and increase scores on measures of self-transcendence, extended perceptions, connection with others, and environmental awareness/concern.

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