Designing for Self-Transcendent Experiences in Virtual Reality

Practices such as meditation, lucid dreaming, and psychedelic-based therapy can be used as therapeutic tools for introspection – the examination or observation of one’s own mental and emotional processes [1]. Introspection can provide privileged access to our own mental states – including sensory, bodily, cognitive, and emotional – that are not mediated by other sources of knowledge, so that one’s experience of the mind is unique; and this can be beneficial in a clinical and general sense [2]. For example, cognitive therapy seeks to correct distorted thought through improved skills of introspection, awareness, and evaluation [3]. Similarly, self-knowledge, or the knowledge of one’s self and one’s properties, informs us of our mental representations of ourselves, which contain attributes that we uniquely pair with ourselves and theories on whether these attributes are stable or dynamic [1]. Introspection can increase the quality and quantity of information people have about themselves and break down the barrier of the ego that affects how people process information about themselves [4].

There currently does not exist an approachable way to introduce the concepts of introspection through technology such as virtual reality. A true and genuine experience is important in technology so that we can keep the human condition and experience in tact. I propose investigating the experiences of introspection so that I can inform the design of an immersive technological system that can be used as a tool for introspection in order to help people explore or understand their internal states, ultimately creating a more positive sense of mental well being.

[1] Alex Byrne. 2005. Introspection. Philosophical Topics 33, 1: 79–104.

[2] H Kohut. 1982. Introspection, empathy and the semi-circle of mental health. The International Journal of Psycho-Analysis 63, 395. Retrieved December 12, 2016 from http://search.proquest.com/openview/78d62f13ea0ccc80db96feba69122b0c/1?pq-origsite=gscholar&cbl=1818729

[3] Ethan Kross, Emma Bruehlman-Senecal, Jiyoung Park, Aleah Burson, Adrienne Dougherty, Holly Shablack, Ryan Bremner, Jason Moser, and Ozlem Ayduk. 2014. Self-talk as a regulatory mechanism: How you do it matters. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 106, 2: 304–324. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0035173

[4]  E. N. Carlson. 2013. Overcoming the Barriers to Self-Knowledge: Mindfulness as a Path to Seeing Yourself as You Really Are. Perspectives on Psychological Science 8, 2: 173–186. https://doi.org/10.1177/1745691612462584

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