Experimental work in Virtual Reality: Methodological considerations

First published: 13 March 2019 | Last updated: 28 March 2019


Dr Steve Sharman

Research Fellow

Dr Steve Sharman is a Research Fellow at the University of East London, where is an integral part of the drugs and addictive behaviours research group. Steve has authored multiple peer-reviewed journal articles, provided evidence to Government consultations, and is part of the Gambling Research Council, housed at the National Problem Gambling Clinic. His previous research encompasses multiple facets of gambling behaviour, including cognitive distortions, the influence of within-game structural characteristics, working with treatment seeking gambling populations, and examining the relationship between gambling and homelessness. Steve’s current work utilises fully immersive virtual reality to investigate gambling and disordered gambling behaviour.

Much of the previous experimental work in the field of gambling research has utilised either traditional laboratory-based paradigms, or naturalistic studies. Whilst effective to an extent, both approaches have limitations. Using Virtual Reality enables researchers to combine the benefits of laboratory settings with the advantages of naturalistic environments whilst removing many of the limitations associated with these methodologies. My current work seeks to use virtual reality to better understand how within-game constructs such as near-misses, losses disguised as wins, maximum stake size and speed of play influence gambling behaviour. However, there is considerable methodological variability in the existing literature relating to uses of virtual reality. Consequently, our first task is to assess and validate different virtual environments, which include virtual casinos built in Unity, and 360 camera footage of real-world gambling environments in comparison to a more traditional experimental psychology gambling task. For this presentation, I will demonstrate previous experimental methodologies used in gambling research, compare them to the virtual worlds to be used in our future work, and discuss some other methodological considerations. This work is funded exclusively by the Society for the Study of Addiction.



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Dr Steve Sharman