The American Psychological Association Journal Practice Innovations published “Virtual Reality for Psychological Assessment in Clinical Practice” in the September, 2016 issue.  The online blog PsyPost posted “Virtual Reality Training Improves Social Skills in People on the Autism Spectrum” on September 20, 2016.

Here are highlight from the abstract  for the APA article:

Recent advances in virtual reality technologies allow for enhanced computational capacities for administration efficiency, stimulus presentation, automated logging of responses, and data analytic processing. These virtual environments allow for controlled presentations of emotionally engaging background narratives to enhance affective experience and social interactions. Within this context virtual reality can allow psychologists to offer safe, repeatable, and diversifiable assessments of real word functioning. Although there are a number of purported advantages of virtual reality technologies, there is still a need for establishing the psychometric properties of virtual reality assessments and interventions. This review investigates the advantages and challenges inherent in the application of virtual reality technologies to psychological assessments and interventions.

The article describes several potential advantages of virtual reality-assisted psychological assessments, including the ability to utilize a “virtual environment” with more comprehensive “real-world” simulation and more intense “experience” of the simulation. They provide several examples of existing virtual reality assessment programs could, including one which is used to help assess the ability of schizophrenic patients to manage their medication. The virtual reality program provides a simulated apartment environment with typical “real world” distractions, such as a TV, a dog barking, a phone ringing, etc. The simulation includes the clock which the patient is expected to use to keep track of when it is time for the next dose of medication. This program reportedly provides accurate estimates of the patient’s ability to tune out distractions and take their medication on time.

This article is available for purchase online for $11.95. For those interested in virtual reality developments, particularly in regard to “enhance” psychological assessments, this article is worth purchasing.

Paradoxically, virtual reality training can also be helpful for social skills training for people on the autism spectrum.  The online blog PsyPost posted “Virtual Reality Training Improves Social Skills in People on the Autism Spectrum” on September 20, 2016. This article reviews research done at the University of Texas at Dallas which found that subjects ages 17 to 16 with “high-functioning autism” experienced more benefits from virtual reality training than standard social skills training. The researchers theorize that virtual-reality training provides less intense social stimulation than reality for these people, and they find virtual-reality training to be a safer arena for them to practice new behaviors.

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