Experiencing herd immunity in virtual reality increases COVID-19 vaccination intention: Evidence from a large-scale field intervention study

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This study investigates the impact of an immersive virtual reality (VR) simulation of herd immunity on vaccination intentions and its potential underlying mechanisms. In this preregistered field study, N = 654 participants were randomly assigned to one of the three VR conditions: (1) Gamified Herd Immunity; (2) Gamified Herd Immunity + Empathy (with additional narrative elements); (3) Control (gamified with no vaccination-related content). In the Gamified Herd Immunity simulation, participants embodied a vulnerable person and navigated a wedding venue trying to avoid getting infected. A total of 455 participants with below maximum intentions to take a novel vaccine and without severe cybersickness were analyzed. The Gamified Herd Immunity + Empathy and the Gamified Herd Immunity conditions increased vaccination intentions by 6.68 and 7.06 points on a 0–100 scale, respectively, compared to 1.91 for the Control condition. The Gamified Herd Immunity + Empathy condition enhanced empathy significantly more than the Gamified Herd Immunity condition but did not result in higher vaccination intentions. Experienced presence was related to the change in vaccination intentions. The results suggest that VR vaccination communication can effectively increase vaccination intentions; the effect is not solely due to the technological novelty and does not depend on empathy.
Original languageEnglish
Article number107533
JournalComputers in Human Behavior
Issue number107533
Number of pages9
Publication statusPublished - 17 Oct 2022

    Research areas

  • Faculty of Social Sciences - Vaccine hesitancy, Herd immunity, Virtual reality, Coronavirus, COVID-19, Vaccine advocacy

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