Call: Virtual Reality for Pro-Social Attitude Change – Special issue of New Media & Society

Call for Papers

Virtual Reality for Pro-Social Attitude Change
Special issue of New Media & Society


Tanja Aitamurto, Stanford University
Andrea Stevenson Won, Cornell University
Shuo Zhou, University of Colorado


  • Extended abstract submission deadline: October, 10, 2018
  • Notification on submitted abstracts: November 10, 2018
  • Article submission deadline: February 1, 2019

In recent years, virtual reality (VR) has become a more common medium both in professional and personal consumer use. As a parallel development, the cost of producing and publishing VR content has become easier with new platforms such as YouTube Virtual Reality and Facebook 360°. VR is being produced, published and consumed more than ever, and as a result, virtual reality has permeated numerous domains.

While entertainment and gaming remain dominant contexts, VR is increasingly deployed also in a multitude of civic applications, including education, healthcare, and journalism. One common theme of these applications is using VR for pro-social attitude change. This potential is supported by decades of research showing that traditional game-engine based VR may be a powerful tool for affecting people’s attitudes (Bailenson, 2018). With its immersive features, VR may help users to understand other people’s perspectives better compared with other media. Building on this work, scholarly inquiry has expanded from traditional VR to cinematic virtual reality (CVR), augmented reality (AR), and mixed reality (MR).

These developments create space for a multitude of research questions. Many of the discussions about virtual reality center around its ability to change behavior, for good or ill. Such applications of VR may change or enhance users’ attitudes, leading them to contribute to society positively. This special issue calls for papers with both theoretical and empirical inquiries into the use of VR for pro-social attitude and/or behavioral change toward others. While there is much current interest in virtual reality as a tool for empathy driving prosocial behavior, we are particularly interested in empirical work which refines, defines or problematizes this concept. The research questions we are interested in include, but are not limited to the following:

  • What is the role of VR (and CVR, AR, MR) in contributing to pro-social attitude change?
  • Under what circumstances does pro-social attitude change occur in VR?
  • Under what circumstances might such interventions backfire?
  • How can VR efficiently balance the sense of presence and pro-social attitude change?
  • How should VR interfaces be designed to maximizing the positive effects of VR?
  • What are the ethical considerations related to VR and pro-social attitude change?

The approaches can be multidisciplinary and stem from several disciplines, including communication, psychology, digital humanities, and human-computer interaction.


Proposals should consist of an extended abstract of 500-750 words (not including references). The extended abstract should contain the key elements of the paper, including the problem statement with justifications, methodology and the main contribution of the submission. The proposal should also include an abbreviated bio of the authors describing their main research interests and background.

Please submit your proposal as a PDF to the e-mail address no later than October 10, 2018. By November 10, 2018, the authors will be notified whether their abstract has been selected, and consequently if they will be encouraged to develop and submit an article for peer review. Finally, full articles (8,000 words) will be due February 1, 2019, for full blind review, in accordance with the journal’s peer-review procedure. The peer-reviews will determine whether the article is accepted for publication in the special issue.

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