Psychologists are Leveraging VR to Profile Personality
Is your personal data private while using VR for profiling?
Virtual reality (VR) is such a technology that is used to create a simulated technology. VR places the user inside an experience, unlike traditional user interfaces. Instead of putting a screen in front of them, users are immersed and are capable of interacting with 3D worlds. The computer is transformed into a gatekeeper to the artificial world by simulating as many senses as possible, like vision, hearing, touch, even smell. The only limitation of real VR experiences is the availability of content and cheap computing power.
Virtual reality’s most magnetic component is the head-mounted display (HMD). Human beings are visual creatures, and display technology is often the single most significant difference between immersive VR systems and traditional user interfaces. For example, CAVE automatic virtual environments actively display virtual content onto room-sized screens. Although they are fun for people in universities and big labs, consumer and industrial wearables are the wild tests.
Today, VR is not only limited to the gaming industry. It has been widely used in many psychology researches to investigate social anxiety, moral decision-making, and emotional responses. New research published last month reveals how people respond emotionally to a potential threat. The study found that participants became more cautious as they increased the ice block path’s precariousness. It also discovered how people behave in virtual reality can give clear evidence of their personality. In that, the team could pinpoint participants with a specific personality trait based on how they behave in the VR scenario.
Although this is an exciting finding, it raises privacy concerns such as people’s data. For instance, technology organizations could profile people’s personalities via their VR interactions and then use it to target advertising. This explicitly raises concerns about how data collected through VR platforms can be used.
Personality and Privacy
The research team had participants complete a personality scale before performing the study. They focused on neuroticism to measure the extent to which each person is likely to experience negative emotions like anxiety and fear. And the study found that participants with higher levels of neuroticism could be detected based on their behaviour. These people did more testing with one foot and spent longer standing on “safe” concrete blocks when the threat was high.
Neuroticism is one of the five major personality traits most commonly used to profile people. A self-report questionnaire assesses these traits, but these traits can also be assessed based on behavior, explored by the study.
The study also explored how VR users could have their personalities profiled in a virtual world. This approach, where personal traits are speculated based on implicit monitoring of digital behavior, was demonstrated with a dataset derived from Facebook, likes back in 2013. The study demonstrated how the same approach could be applied to the users of commercial VR headsets that raise significant concerns for people’s privacy.
Users should be aware that their data is being tracked. They should know whether historical records are kept, whether data can be traced to individual accounts along with what the data is used for, and who it can be shared with.