Virtual reality and the innate ability of the human brain to bring together the impressions created by different senses may be a step toward conquering racial bigotry and stereotyping. Professor Manos Tsakiris of the Royal Holloway University of London and Professor Mel Slater of University College London and the University of Barcelona have developed the first virtual reality system that allows a person of one race to live in a person of a different race’s skin.
The virtual reality system allows a Caucasian person to see their body as a black person. A separate set of tests allowed adult parents to virtually inhabit the bodies of children. In both instances the test participants expressed lower levels of unconscious bias toward another race and lower levels of superiority toward children.
The researchers envision using this device as a means to reduce racial hatred, religious bigotry, gender discrimination, and other forms of in-group and out-group dysfunction. The test results do indicate that walking a mile or so in the virtual reality shoes and body of a person of a different race reduced feelings of fear, hostility, and bias people felt for another race before they experienced their own body as the body of a person of a different color.
The researchers claim that the device cannot cure race hate. Some elements of discrimination have been traced to the extended families of the earliest of humans. Fear of the unknown was a leading cause of fighting among different looking peoples in ancient times.
One might suggest that the people that benefit the most financially from racial unrest should be forced to tour the virtual reality of those they profess to hate. Likewise, political leaders might take a virtual reality tour of their most hated enemies before they negotiate peace. While religions may preach peace, Christianity and Islam have been at each other’s throats for over 1,300 years. Potentially a virtual Muslim and virtual Christian could settle their differences permanently. This might be a solution to the tension between white police and black men.
This will never work. As long as people can make money from bigotry even through research that attempts to prevent racism then the problem will continue. Police and government unions would probably be adverse to this form of testing. The potential may lie in using this technique on people that killed someone of another race.