Seeing Yourself Leaving Your Body in Virtual Reality Reduces Fear of Death

Discovery
Seeing Yourself Leaving Your Body in Virtual Reality Reduces Fear of Death PHOTOGRAPH: Flickr / Knight Center for Journalism | Under CC BY 2.0

Mel Slater and his team of scientists in the University of Barcelona came up with a way to reduce one’s fear of death. Letting one experience an out-of-body sensation through virtual reality has been proven to be successful in this regard. It lets one get a taste of afterlife, and makes the inevitability of mortality less frightening.

A total of 32 volunteers participated in the unique experiment. Each of them were handed VR headsets and taken into a virtual world. What happened next was based on the amazing technology that any sensory function happening inside the volunteers’ brains would be incorporated in the virtual world via the VR sets.

The ‘Rubber Hand Illusion’

People could feel vibrations on their real foot when a ball was dropped on their virtual foot, reported Plos One. This was akin to the technique of “rubber hand illusion.” After establishing a connection between their virtual and real bodies, their viewpoint was shifted. Suddenly they appeared to be looking down at their virtual bodies from above, instead of a first-person view.

The procedure was repeated and the vibration effect was activated for only half the users. People who did not receive any effect felt as connected to their bodies as people who received the effect. Later a simple survey was conducted among the volunteers, where they were asked if they still feared death.

People who had no connection to both their real and virtual bodies felt less afraid of death. Slater mentioned that the experiment was not conducted to eradicate people’s fear of death. Rather it was done to give them “a sense that it’s possible to survive beyond death,” he said, reported New Scientist.

What Is a Near-Death Experience?

Moreover, it also helps one understand the “Near Death Experience” or NDE better. NDE has been described by Plos One as “an altered state of consciousness that can occur during clinical death—typically following cardiac arrest.” It is a state when having an out-of-body experience is quite common.

Furthermore, 11 percent of cardiac arrest patients experience NDE. People making it back from a state of NDE have often talked about it. They observed their own body on the hospital bed from high up in the ceiling of the room during critical moments. The above experiment has the potential of eliminating the fear of death from the minds of terminally ill patients.

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