Skip to main content
European Commission logo print header

Intergroup Contact in Virtual Reality: Comparative Effects of Two Contact Strategies on Reducing Prejudice and Increasing Trust Between Catholics and Protestants in Northern Ireland

Descrizione del progetto

Collegare virtualmente cattolici e protestanti

La realtà virtuale è stata originariamente progettata per rendere i videogiochi più coinvolgenti, ma la tecnologia si è estesa a una serie di altre industrie e settori. Dal luogo di lavoro all’aula, la realtà virtuale potrebbe presto trovare una nuova vocazione nella riduzione dei conflitti fra gruppi. Quest’ultima si basa sull’ipotesi del contatto, che suggerisce che il contatto intergruppo è efficace nel ridurre i pregiudizi tra i membri di gruppi maggioritari e minoritari. Il progetto contactVIRT, finanziato dall’UE, verificherà questa ipotesi utilizzando la tecnologia della realtà virtuale nell’Irlanda del Nord. Poiché cattolici e protestanti hanno contatti relativamente scarsi con i membri al di fuori del proprio gruppo, il progetto verificherà se il contatto a livello di realtà virtuale promuova la fiducia tra i due gruppi.


Intergroup contact is widely recognised among social scientists as a means to overcome prejudice between social groups. However, contact is less likely to occur in highly segregated contexts such as the post-conflict society of Northern Ireland, where Catholics and Protestants grow with relatively scarce contact with members outside their own group. Faced with this scenario, scholars have examined computer-mediated contact with relatively successful outcomes. Although virtual reality (VR) technologies have been less fully explored in this respect, it offers great potential for contact by way of avatar communication in a safe environment. The scarce literature in this area has associated VR interactions with empathy and trust towards outgroups. These effects derive mainly from two strategies: perspective taking (e.g. making users to adopt an outgroup avatar), and recategorisation (e.g. inducing an inclusive-superordinate identity among ingroup/outgroup members). Conversely, the mechanisms by which VR-contact may be effective are less clear as other similar studies have obtained mixed results. A potential confusion in the effects produced by avatar customization (similarity identification, embodiment), and the relevance of the primed superordinate identity (transient or lasting) for group members, seem to affect contact outcomes. This proposal has a primary objective of testing the effectiveness of VR-contact in reducing prejudice and promoting trust between members of the Catholic and Protestant communities in Northern Ireland. Specifically, this research will compare the relative strengths of perspective taking versus recategorisation, evaluate the mechanisms of avatar customization, and advance a research framework of contact in VR environments for successful contact effects. Hence, this research will extend the field by producing theoretical advances in an innovative area which combines communication technologies and intergroup contact.

Meccanismo di finanziamento

MSCA-IF-EF-ST - Standard EF


Contribution nette de l'UE
€ 224 933,76
University road lanyon building
BT7 1NN Belfast
Regno Unito

Mostra sulla mappa

Northern Ireland Northern Ireland Belfast
Tipo di attività
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
Altri finanziamenti
€ 0,00