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Dr. Ylva Hansdotter


University College Dublin




Immersive Virtual Reality, Prosocial Behaviour

Thesis Title

The Affordances of Immersive Virtual Reality for Stimulating Prosocial Behaviour: A Mixed-Methods Pro-Environmental Intervention Study


The world is facing severe challenges, including climate change, hunger, pandemics and inequality. Several of these challenges will directly or indirectly impact everyone, and there is an urgent need for global action. It is necessary to adapt to a more sustainable way of living, and research can help develop and refine tools to support this transformation. This dissertation aims to contribute to the understanding of how virtual reality (VR) can support attitudinal and behavioural change leading to prosocial behaviour. A mixed-methods design was used to outline a framework for designing prosocial VR interventions, develop a pro-environmental VR intervention, and test its effectiveness in a two-group quasi-experiment involving 104 participants. Finally, the most impactful factors for a change in pro-environmental attitudes and behaviours were explored. The dissertation confirms findings from prior research that indicate the effectiveness of using VR to support prosocial change. It also provides additional insight into the understudied area of using VR in pro-environmental interventions. The participants in the VR condition reported an increased capability, opportunity and motivation for prosocial change, a higher degree of pro-environmental behaviour one month after the intervention, and participated to a higher degree in voluntary activities to learn about measuring and reducing their carbon footprint. The research offers novel insights and original contributions to the academic field of prosocial VR but also provides examples of how scholarship might inform and inspire prosocial action in practice. The ambition is that this work can be of value to future scholars and practitioners and that it may be utilised in schools and learning environments where young people may be inspired to take ownership and action.



Ylva has an interdisciplinary academic background in Behavioural Science and Computer Science from the University of Stockholm, and during her +20 years practice, she has worked in the intersection of the two fields with the motivation to understand what stimulates behavioural change, and to find efficient strategies and tools to support a positive change process.
She is the founder and Executive Director of XR Impact (, a non-profit organization that leverages XR technologies (VR/AR/MR) to support sustainable social change, and a fellow of the World Economic Forum’s Global Future Council on VR and AR. In Davos 2020 she premiered “Be Earth”, a VR-platform to inspire positive global action towards the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

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