Research Spotlight: Virtual reality vs. dating violence

Gabriella Gomez and Matthew Leahy demonstrate dating-violence programSMU’s Department of Psychology and The Guildhall at SMU have joined forces against dating violence. Psychology Professors Ernest Jouriles and Renee McDonald, with Guildhall Lecturer Jeff Perryman and Deputy Director Tony Cuevas, are collaborating on a role-playing program that combines virtual reality with behavioral insight to help teach and test sexual assault avoidance techniques.

The program’s environment of a rain-lashed car parked in an isolated area immerses women into not just a location, but also a “conversation” with a potential attacker. It is the first step in what developers hope will be a program to help women practice strategies for averting sexual assault in a controlled situation that is safe, yet feels realistic. “This is a potential breakthrough opportunity for gaming technology – to help solve an important social problem,” Jouriles says.

Read more about it in the Spring 2008 Dedman College newsletter. Look for the new issue in your campus mailbox in June. Right, psychology graduate students Gabriella Gomez and Matthew Leahy demonstrate the program.