Virtual Reality Helps To Overcome People’s Fear Of Public Speaking
Practicing a speech in front of a virtual audience, decreased patients’ catastrophic thoughts and fears with public speaking anxiety. Fear of public speaking is a prevalent type of social anxiety. It can range from a mild fear that produces nervousness, to a more severe fear that completely paralyzes the person and produces panic.
People who suffer from this type of anxiety try to avoid situations in which they have to speak in public, to the point of affecting them in their daily lives. Cognitive-behavioral therapy is the type of psychological treatment that is commonly used in these cases. A new study suggests that virtual reality (VR) technology may also aid in overcoming anxiety.
The study conducted by the University of Stockholm involved 20 patients from psychological clinics with anxiety related to public speaking. First, the participants underwent therapy sessions in which they practiced different speaking techniques. In the second part of the study, each one was put on virtual reality glasses in which a room full of people was recreated, and they had to make a speech. With a single session of three hours of virtual reality, the participants experienced a very significant decrease in anxiety when speaking in public.
The situation recreated by virtual reality could be customized according to the characteristics and difficulties of each participant. Both the audience’s mood and their behavior changed depending on the person. After the speech, participants could replay their performance to see how they did it. After the virtual reality sessions, the participants saw their fear decrease that the people who listen to them will have a negative thought about them.
One of the characteristics of people with a fear of public speaking is to have expectations of catastrophic beliefs, such as something embarrassing happening to them during their presentation and people laughing at them, or that the people who listen to them have a very negative view of them and their abilities due to their intervention. Virtual reality sessions also reduced these catastrophic thoughts.