How effective is Virtual Reality as a research tool for simulating gambling environments in psychological studies?

Wilson, Liam (2019) How effective is Virtual Reality as a research tool for simulating gambling environments in psychological studies? Masters thesis, University of Lincoln.

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How effective is Virtual Reality as a research tool for simulating gambling environments in psychological studies?
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Item Type:Thesis (Masters)
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Abstract

The work presented in this thesis aims to design, develop and investigate the effectiveness of a Virtual Reality (VR) tool for conducting research in gambling behaviour. The majority of existing gambling studies are conducted in laboratories, rather than in vivo, raising questions over the generalisability of results [1]. VR is well established as an effective tool for exposure therapy, often motivated by an ability to create ecologically valid conditions whilst retaining experimental control, which is difficult to do in vivo. Whilst VR has also been used in some gambling studies, no work has considered how VR environments should be designed to best create ecological validity, and the differences in experience between laboratory and VR conditions. This thesis presents the process of designing and developing a VR tool, featuring a gambling task and VR environment to create an experience of gambling in a betting shop. A prototype artefact was tested within a pilot study to identify and fix bugs prior to starting user studies. Approached from the perspective of immersion, arousal and user experience; a within-subjects study (N = 48) was conducted. During this, participants were tasked with playing through the gambling task on a touch-screen tablet in a laboratory, before repeating the same task on a Virtual Gambling Machine (VGM) within the VR simulation of a betting shop. Subjective measures were applied to measure immersion, emotional involvement and workload. The results of user studies show that participants reported higher levels of arousal, in addition to higher levels of immersion in the gambling game when playing in VR. There was also a significant difference in self-reported physical task load in VR. These findings suggest that VR offers high levels of immersion which enable a user to better engage and focus on a research task, without a negative impact upon cognitive workload due to the VR equipment. Increased levels of arousal in the VR condition also mirror affects observed in existing work comparing in vivo conditions to laboratory-based methods [2], [3]. Based on these findings, we argue that VR should see wider use within gambling research, and propose that future work should compare VR with in vivo methods. This thesis also details the design and development steps required to create a tool which can effectively combine ecological validity and experimental control, demonstrating how key challenges were tackled and offering insight for future work. Additionally, the work presented in this thesis resulted in the creation of a VR environment which was designed and implemented to accommodate any gambling task. This VR tool offers psychology researchers the opportunity to create a game suited to their research needs and easily integrate it into a VR environment, offering ecological validity for experiments with little additional effort. This integration system can be ported into any VR environment created within the Unity engine to help suit the needs of specific research.

Divisions:College of Science > School of Computer Science
ID Code:47508
Deposited On:08 Dec 2021 13:36

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