Virtual reality: negative emotions weaken levels of engagement

Virtual reality: negative emotions weaken levels of engagement

Research into the use of virtual reality (VR) road safety films suggests that playing on negative emotions through the use of, for example, a crash scene weakens the level of engagement and is likely to lead to participants detaching themselves from the scenario.

safer roads humber vrThe study, commissioned by Safer Roads Humber and carried out by Road Safety Analysis (RSA), also found that the use of a VR film as a standalone activity will not lead to the required behaviour change, and as such the films should be used as part of a wider intervention such as a classroom presentation.



Described as a ‘new and innovative method of delivering content at interventions’, VR technology is gaining in popularity among the road safety community.

Much of this is due to an increase in its affordability and commercial application, as well as the quality of material that can now be displayed through it.


The RSA research, which evaluated the psychological and physiological effects that take place when viewing differing types of content through 360 VR headsets, centred on the ‘Virtual Reality Fatal 4 - 360 (VF4 360)’ film.

Developed by Leicestershire Fire and Rescue Service in 2016, VF4 360 is designed to give young drivers the ‘most realistic experience’ of a road traffic collision from the front seat passenger's perspective.

The research, conducted among more than 120 college students, explored the impact of the VF4 film in standard 2D, compared with the 3D VR film. The researchers found a ‘clear distinction’ between viewing the films in these different formats - with 3D having a greater impact on students.

Safer Roads Humber hopes the research will enable road safety professionals to understand how ‘different emotional stances affect the level of presence when using VR’, thereby allowing practitioners to build upon current projects and take VR to the next stage.