Historical Time Machines : Experimentally Investigating Potentials and Impacts of Immersion in Historical VR on History Education and Morality

Virtual reality (VR) is known for its immersive characteristics that enable users the experience of presence in virtual environments. However, the experience of presence in emotionally charged historical VR is controversially discussed as it might decrease the critical, cognitive reflection of the historical content and lead to strong emotional reactions. Therefore, we examined the effects of the VR content’s emotionality on presence and emotional response. Following the transportation-imagery model and the model of intuitive morality and exemplars, we investigated the effects of presence and emotional response on the recipients’ enjoyment, historical interest, beliefs, awareness, and moral reasoning. Moreover, we tested whether additional information after watching historical VR can support the critical reflection of the historical content. Taking different modalities into account, we conducted two experiments following a 2 (emotionality of the content) × 2 (reception of additional information)-between-subjects design in which participants were exposed to historical VR via a media player (Experiment 1, N = 493) or VR glasses (Experiment 2, N = 99). In line with the assumptions, the recipients’ experience of presence and emotional response supported historical interest, enjoyment, and affected moral reasoning. Moreover, findings indicated that additional material promotes the critical reflection of historical VR.


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