Could You Change Behavior With Virtual Reality?

I am a big believer in experiential learning.  To that effect, every time I’ve decided to change behavior I only have to envision myself at some future state affected by my current state decisions.  When I believed that my drinking caffeine would impact my future health, I quit cold turkey for 15 months.  (I observed no meaningful difference in health and allowed myself to drink caffeine again.)

So… I guess my question is why can’t this be harnessed in all of us.  Would we make different decisions if there was a way to reflect on our decisions in a “magic mirror” of sorts that showed us how these would impact our lives?  Is this a role for a “Future Life” play on Second Life?

Imagine:

  • Inputing your food decisions for a month and having it show you your weight, physical attributes, diseases, impact on your kids, etc in 10-years and do that in a 3D virtual reality environment.
  • People who smoke observing themselves thru the eyes of others and smelling the smell that others smell when the smoke is saturated into their clothes.
  • People who chew tobacco seeing what their mouth would look like in 20 years without teeth and having dentures and the things they could no longer do.
  • People who drink and drive imagining themselves in a car crash where they die and the impact that has on their friends and family.

Or, if you focus on the carrot versus the stick maybe there’s more motivation to change by letting them dream what is possible if they change behavior:

  • Running a marathon at age 70.
  • Seeing their grandchildren and being able to chase them around.
  • Being without any medications.

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