Becoming Other: Virtual Embodiment - Blurring the Self-Other Binary

Daniel H. Landau

Research output: ThesisDoctoral ThesisMonograph


The research presented here explores the impact of virtual reality (VR) and virtual embodiment technologies on the distinction between ‘self and other’ in interpersonal and intergroup contexts. In a series of five empirical experiments and three art projects, I investigated this self- other distinction in the context of the ever-evolving relationship between technology and the self. Using stereoscopic 180º video, I explore the impact of virtual encounters transitioning from meeting others to becoming ‘the other.’ The first study shows that meeting in VR a person who shares a painful story elicits a high degree of empathetic care and facial synchrony. The next study shows that experiencing ingroup aggression from an outgroup perspective increases empathy towards the outgroup compared to seeing the same scenario from the ingroup’s perspective. Next, I present an art project devising a novel and effective technique to induce virtual embodiment using 180º stereoscopic video, followed by empirical evaluation and validation of this technique. Next, I show that meeting yourself in virtual reality as an experimental paradigm can increase self-compassion. And finally, in a VR museum installation, I demonstrate the potential of VR for social impact. This manuscript explores various VR methods of placing participants “in others’ shoes” and provides both new insights and novel methods for using VR and virtual embodiment forstorytelling, art installations, and social interventions.
Translated title of the contributionBecoming Other; Virtual Embodiment – Blurring the Self-Other Binary
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor's degree
Awarding Institution
  • Aalto University
  • Diaz-Kommonen, Lily, Supervising Professor
  • Friedman, Doron, Thesis Advisor
  • Diaz-Kommonen, Lily, Thesis Advisor
Print ISBNs978-952-64-0097-6
Electronic ISBNs978-952-64-0098-3
Publication statusPublished - 2020
MoE publication typeG4 Doctoral dissertation (monograph)


  • virtual reality
  • empathy
  • virtual embodiment
  • perspective taking
  • intergroup flict
  • techno-self
  • body ownership illusion

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