Out-of-body experience in virtual reality induces acute dissociation
van Heugten-van der Kloet D., Cosgrave J., van Rheede J., Hicks S.
© 2018 American Psychological Association. An established challenge in studying dissociation is developing effective methodologies to induce dissociative symptomatology in the laboratory. The primary aim of this study was to pilot the efficacy of virtual reality (VR) in inducing dissociative states in healthy subjects by simulating out-of-body experiences. Healthy participants (N = 25) were asked to wear an Oculus Rift (Menlo Park, CA) VR head-mounted display, which was connected to a wide-angle GoPro (San Mateo, CA) video camera placed in front of participants so they could view themselves, the experimenter, and the surrounding environment. They were asked to partake in a number of exercises while wearing the Oculus Rift and completed a questionnaire on sleep quality (the Sleep Condition Indicator; Espie et al., 2014) and the Clinician-Administered Dissociative States Scale (CADSS; Bremner et al., 1998) both before and after the perceptual experience. Findings highlight a significant increase in acute dissociation after VR exposure, particularly with respect to the endorsement of depersonalization on the CADSS. This is-to the best of our knowledge-the first study to implement VR in inducing acute dissociation, and it offers preliminary support for the application of VR as a viable method to induce dissociative states in healthy participants. Our research paves the way for the investigation and use of these new technologies in the assessment and treatment of dissociative symptomatology, providing a valuable and fruitful path to understanding dissociation in the future.