Project

Transformative Experience Design

Goal: The goal of this project is to understand how virtual reality, brain-based technologies and the language of arts can support transformative experiences, that is, emotional experiences that promote deep personal change.

About this project
There are experiences in life that are able to generate profound and long-lasting shifts in core beliefs and attitudes, including subjective self-transformation [1]. These experiences have the capacity of changing not only what individuals know and value, but also how they see the world. For these characteristics, transformative experiences are gaining increasing attention not only in psychology and neuroscience, but also in philosophy. From a psychological perspective, transformative change is often associated to specific experiential states, defined “self-transcendence experiences”. These are transient mental states that allow individuals experiencing something greater of themselves, reflecting on deeper dimensions of their existence and shaping lasting spiritual beliefs. These experiences encompass several mental states, including flow, positive emotions such as awe and elevation, “peak” experiences, “mystical” experiences and mindfulness (for a review, see Yaden et al. [2]). Although the phenomenological profile of these experiential states can vary significantly in terms of quality and intensity, they are characterized by a diminished sense of self and increased feelings of connectedness to other people and one’s surroundings [2]. Previous research has shown that self-transcendent experiences are important sources of positive psychological outcomes, including increased meaning in life, positive mood and life satisfaction, positive behavior change, spiritual development and pro-social attitudes. One potentially interesting question related to self-transcendent experiences concerns whether, and to which extent, these mental states can be invited or elicited by means of interactive technologies. This question lies at the center of a new research program – Transformative Experience Design (TED) [3] – which has a two-fold aims: (i) to systematically investigate the phenomenological and neuro-cognitive aspects of self-transcendent experiences, as well as their implications for individual growth and psychological wellbeing; and (ii) to translate such knowledge into a tentative set of design principles for developing “e-experiences” that support meaning in life and personal growth.
More specifically, the TED framework has identified three possible assets that can be combined to achieve this goal. The first strategy concerns the use of advanced simulation technologies, such as virtual, augmented and mixed reality, as the elective medium to generate controlled alteration of perceptual, motor and cognitive processes.
The second asset regards the use of the language of arts to create emotionally-compelling storytelling scenarios. The third and final element of TED concerns the use of brain-based technologies, such as brain stimulation and bio/neurofeedback, to modulate neuro-physiological processes underlying self-transcendence mental states, using a closed-loop approach. The central assumption of TED is that the combination of these means provides a broad spectrum of transformative possibilities, which include, for example, “what it is like” to embody another self or another life form, simulating peculiar neurological phenomena like synesthesia or out-of-body experiences, and altering time and space perception. The safe and controlled use of these e-experiences hold the potential to facilitate self-knowledge and self-understanding, foster creative expression, develop new skills, and recognize and learn the value of others. The goal of this project is to bring together researchers interested in TED as well as to explore the theoretical and methodological challenges associated to this topic.

References
[1] Miller, W. R., & C'de Baca, J. (2001). Quantum change: When epiphanies and sudden insights transform ordinary lives. New York: Guilford Press.
[2] Yaden, D. B., Haidt, J., Hood, R. W., Jr., Vago, D. R., & Newberg, A. B. (2017). The varieties of self-transcendent experience. Review of General Psychology, 21(2), 143-160.
[3] Gaggioli, A. (2016). Transformative Experience Design. In Human Computer Confluence. Transforming Human Experience Through Symbiotic Technologies, eds A. Gaggioli, A. Ferscha, G. Riva, S. Dunne, and I. Viaud-Delmon (Berlin: De Gruyter Open), 96–121.

Methods: Psychophysiology, Virtual Reality, Artistic Creativity, Experiential Design, Neurophenomenology, Mood induction

Date: 1 March 2016

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Project log

Andrea Gaggioli
added a research item
The concept of transformative experience (TE) has been widely explored by several disciplines from philosophy to neurobiology, and in different domains, from the spiritual to the educational one. This attitude has engendered heterogeneous models to explain this phenomenon. However, a consistent and clear understanding of this construct remains elusive. The aim of this work is to provide an initial comprehensive interdisciplinary, cross-domain, up-to-date, and integrated overview on the concept of TEs. Firstly, all the models and theories on TEs were reviewed to extract and analyze TEs’ main components emerging from different disciplines. Then, this preliminary analysis was integrated with an in-depth examination of redundancies and particularities across domains and disciplines, to provide an integrated theoretical framework of TEs and a preliminary interdisciplinary operational definition of TEs. This examination, in turn, can help organize current research and theories, thus providing suggestions for operationalizing TEs as well as encouraging new interdisciplinary research endeavors.
Andrea Gaggioli
added a research item
Despite of the number of significant scientific discoveries in Italy, youth engagement with science and technology is still very low in this country. Teaching young generations about the complex relationship between science, technology, and society (STS) is fundamental in order to promote higher level critical thinking skills, foster lifelong civic engagement. However, as students’ interest towards scientific and technological disciplines continues to drop, so their participation is declining in public discussions on key contemporary issues concerning STS. PROMETHEUS Project has developed a novel approach to sustain STS awareness and education, which is based on Sublime-inspiring theatrical experiences designed to stimulate inquiry and enhance engagement in STS issues, which influences students’ present and future worlds. Self-efficacy and perceived vastness associated to the scientific notions featured in class resulted in higher impact on young adolescents involved in the pilot testing of the theater-based intervention in 2021.
Andrea Gaggioli
added an update
Guest Editors: Andrea Gaggioli, MSc.(Psych.), Ph.D and Alice Chirico, MSc.(Psych.), Ph.D ExperienceLab, Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore, Milan, Italy
Emotions are our internal compass: not only do they influence a wide range of cognitive processes, including perception, attention, learning and reasoning; they also play a fundamental role in shaping people’s mental health and wellbeing.
Thanks to recent advances in software and hardware platforms, virtual and augmented reality systems (hereinafter VR/AR), provide emotion researchers with unprecedented opportunities to investigate affective experiences.
Virtual technologies allow the simulation of real-life situations and contexts that encourage participants to act naturally, thus optimizing the trade-off between ecological validity and experimental control. Furthermore, the integration of wearable bio- and motion sensors in virtual reality (VR) systems allows for the measurement of physiological and behavioral correlates of emotional responses elicited in VR, as well as the implementation of closed-loop interactive systems (i.e., biofeedback).
VR/AR also holds significant potential for implementing novel interventions that promote emotional well-being and personal change. Examples include the use of VR/AR for eliciting positive affective states (i.e., amusement, inspiration, interest, hope), fostering self-transcendent emotions (i.e., compassion, gratitude, and awe), and enhancing emotion regulation (i.e., the ability to influence one's emotional experiences).
Improving our understanding of emotions in virtual environments can have important implications for designing VR/AR applications. With the emergence of the Metaverse economy, there will be an increasing need to provide VR/AR designers with theory-driven, evidence-based guidelines for creating applications that are able to elicit specific emotions or to assess their impact.
This special issue intends to bring together researchers to report their latest progress in the study of emotional experiences in VR/AR environments. Topics include, but are not limited, to:
  • Emotions, immersion and presence/social presence;
  • Emotions and embodiment in VR;
  • The role of VR/AR in emotion elicitation, regulation, and expression;
  • Analysis of psycho-physiological correlates of emotions in VR/AR;
  • Induction and recognition of emotion in VR/AR;
  • Comparison of emotional responses in virtual, natural and “phygital” environments;
  • The use of VR/AR in emotional wellbeing interventions;
  • VR narrative experiences and emotions;
  • Aesthetic and complex emotions in synthetic environments;
  • Positive and self-transcendent emotions in VR/AR;
  • The role of emotions in designing and assessing VR/AR applications (i.e., mental health, education, marketing etc.).
Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking, the Official Journal of the International Association of CyberPsychology, Training, and Rehabilitation, is the premier peer-reviewed resource for authoritative research on understanding the social, behavioral, and psychological impact of today's social networking practices, including Twitter, Facebook, and internet gaming and commerce. The Journal is under the editorial leadership of Editor-in-Chief Brenda K. Wiederhold, PhD, MBA, BCB, BCN, Interactive Media Institute, and other leading investigators. View the entire editorial board.
 
Andrea Gaggioli
added a research item
Complexity has been always a part of an individual’s life under different guises. However, it has always been hard to provide a clear definition of what complexity really is. For instance, in the field of science, complexity has been defined in terms of systems. A system can be deemed as complex when multiple interactions occur among different components or when the system evolves over time, where a recognizable structure is still present but varies in different ways in response to small perturbations or by being sensitive to initial conditions. This definition, as well as the concept of a system, can also be applied to human experience, whose unfolding takes place through the interactions of specific cognitive, perceptual, and emotional components bringing forth peculiar phenomena, which we labeled as“complex experiences.”
Andrea Gaggioli
added an update
I just finished my talk about "Transformative Experience Design: Exploring Novel Spaces of the Self in The Phygital Era" at the 1st International Conference of Possibility Studies, a brainchild of amazing Vlad Petre Glăveanu. So proud to be part of this exciting event dedicated to the study of human possibility!
 
Andrea Gaggioli
added a research item
Recently, interest in the unique pathways linking discrete positive emotions to specific health outcomes has gained increasing attention, but the role of awe is yet to be elucidated. Awe is a complex and transformative emotion that can restructure individuals' mental frames so deeply that it could be considered a therapeutic asset for major mental health major issues, including depression. Despite sparse evidence showing a potential connection between depression and awe, this link has not been combined into a proposal resulting in specific intervention guidelines. The aim of this perspective was three-fold: (i) to provide a new unifying model of awe's functioning—the Matryoshka model; (ii) to show systematic and explicit connections between this emotion and depression; and (iii) to suggest specific guidelines of intervention utilizing the potential therapeutic role of awe for mental health, specifically for depression. This theoretical endeavor in its entirety has been framed within the health domain.
Andrea Gaggioli
added a research item
Come ogni libro che desideri introdurre concetti nuovi ai più, anche questo inizierà con un tentativo di definire il suo oggetto principale. Il primo obiettivo è rispondere alla domanda di chi prende in mano e vuole capire cosa siano i "momenti di eternità". Come spesso accade traducendo un termine straniero in italiano, si sceglie di usare delle perifrasi al posto di una traduzione letterale, perché è il significato, la semantica dietro il sostantivo, che deve essere trasferita da una cultura all'altra. Ecco che l'espressione "momenti di eternità- è una traduzione libera ma efficace del termine anglosassone awe, spesso tradotto con l'espressione "profonda meraviglia- o, più recentemente, come "sublime psicologico-. Sebbene sia il sublime sia la profonda meraviglia siano stati oggetto di indagine della filosofia e di discipline affini per secoli, il loro ingresso nel mondo della psicologia è abbastanza recente ed è sintetizzabile in un solo termine: awe. Awe è un'emozione complessa che scandisce momenti di profonda transizione della nostra vita e ci mette in contatto con qualcosa di molto più grande di noi: con l'eternità. Il volume porta con sé una prospettiva sul futuro di tale emozione, le nuove frontiere per progettarla - tramite la formulazione di specifiche linee guida orientate dalla ricerca scientifica - in contesti educativi, formativi, aziendali. Perché tutti abbiamo bisogno di "pillole" di eternità e questo libro insegna dove trovarle e come crearle.
Andrea Gaggioli
added a research item
The existing interventions for informal caregivers assist with managing health outcomes of the role burden. However, the deeper meaning-making needs of informal caregivers have been generally neglected. This paper reflects on the meaning-making needs of informal caregivers, through the theory of narrative identity, and proposes a new approach – the Transformative Video Design technique delivered via video storytelling. Transformative Video Design assists informal caregivers to re-create a cohesive caregiving story and incorporate it into the narrative identity. The technique is used as a stimulus for triggering the self-re-structure within the narrative identity and facilitating role transformation.
Andrea Gaggioli
added 2 research items
The sublime-the mixed aesthetic experience of uplift and elevation in response to a powerful or vast object that otherwise is experienced as menacing-has nurtured philosophical discourse for centuries. One of the major philosophical issues concerns whether the sublime is best thought of as a subjective response or as a stimulus. Recently, psychology has conceived of the sublime as an emotion, often referred to as awe, arising from natural or artistic stimuli that are great, rare, and/or vast. However, it has not yet been empirically demonstrated whether two major elicitors of the sublime-nature and art-differ in inducing this state. In order to experimentally compare nature and art, we exposed 50 participants to sub-limity-inducing content in two different formats (nature-based and art-based) using 360˚vid-eos. We compared Vincent Van Gogh's The Starry Night with a photorealistic version of the actual place depicted in the painting, Saint-Ré my-de-Provence. We measured participants' emotional responses before and after each exposure, as well as the sense of presence. The nature-based format induced higher intensity emotional responses than the art-based format. This study compares different sublime stimuli (nature vs. art) for eliciting the sublime.
Andrea Gaggioli
added a research item
Self-transcendence has been characterized as a decrease in self-saliency (ego disillusionment) and increased connection, and has been growing in research interest in the past decade. Several measures have been developed and published with some degree of psychometric validity and reliability. However, to date, there has been no review systematically describing, contrasting, and evaluating the different methodological approaches toward measuring self-transcendence including questionnaires, neurological and physiological measures, and qualitative methods. To address this gap, we conducted a review to describe existing methods of measuring self-transcendence, evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of these methods, and discuss research avenues to advance assessment of self-transcendence, including recommendations for suitability of methods given research contexts.
Andrea Gaggioli
added a research item
Sometimes, life houses rare and unexpected events, such as moving abroad or meeting a special person unexpectedly. Recently, these situations have been indicated as "diversifying experiences" (DEs), defined as unusual and unexpected events that drag people outside their daily routine and accustomed schemas. The core mechanism of DEs would entail the disruption of our mental schema, which can facilitate unexpected connections among even distant ideas, thus enhancing people's cognitive flexibility, that is, a key component of creative thinking. Despite both qualitative and lab-based studies have investigated the features of these experiences, an ecological assessment of their properties also in relation with creativity is still an open issue. The aim of this research is to study the DE-creativity link in a more ecological way, on the basis of a real-life disruptive experience of light deprivation. Specifically, we compared an ecological DE artistic established entertainment format (i.e., "dialogue in the dark," which is seeing people perform several daily life activities but in the absence of light) with an equivalent experience in which the same activities were acted in the sunlight. The absence of light played the role of violating mechanism, framed within the ecological experiential format of the "dialogue in the dark." We compared visitors' emotional profile [Positive and Negative Affect Schedule (PANAS), ad hoc Adjective Checklist], perceived impact of the experience [Centrality of Event Scale (CES)], and creative performance [Torrance Tests of Creative Thinking (TTCT)] in both groups of sighted people (in absence of light vs. in presence of light); and we also controlled for people's openness to experience and need for cognitive closure, as dispositions. Results showed that (vs. control group) "dialogue in the dark" (i) led to worse creative performances, (ii) produced more intense positive affect, and (iii) resulted as a more impacting experience. Intense short-term impact of DE could have been detrimental for participants' creativity. People may need more time to elaborate the DE and accommodate existing schema to generate more creative ideas. This is the first study proposing and succeeding in demonstrating the feasibility to investigate even real complex DEs in a controlled way, thus outlining how their link with creativity can take place in real life.
Giuseppe Riva
added a research item
Presence, flow, narrative absorption, immersion, transportation, and similar phenomena are studied in many different disciplines, mostly in relation to mediated experiences (books, film, VR, games). Moreover, since real, virtual, or fictional agents are often involved, concepts like identification and state empathy are often linked to engaging media use. Through a scoping review we identify similarities in the wording of various questionnaire items conceived to measure different phenomena, categorize items into the most relevant psychological aspects, and use this categorization to propose an interdisciplinary systematization. Then, based on a framework of embodied predictive processing we present a new cognitive model of presence-related phenomena for mediated and non-mediated experiences, integrating spatial and temporal aspects and also considering the role of the media design. Key processes described within the model are: selective attention, enactment of intention, and interoception.
Andrea Gaggioli
added 2 research items
Personal change is generally considered as a gradual and linear process, which occurs either as a result of maturation over the lifespan or as the result of therapeutic interventions. However, research from different disciplines-including anthropology, philosophy, and psychology suggests the existence of a second type of change-transformative or transformational - which involves a radical and long-lasting shift in the individual's core beliefs, values, and attitudes. In this contribution, I will review key definitions and conceptualizations of transformative experience, discuss the scientific and practical relevance of this construct, and suggest some future directions for research.
Andrea Gaggioli
added a research item
Starting from the pro-environmental potential of virtual reality (VR), the aim was to understand how different statistical information formats can enhance VR persuasive potential for plastic consumption, recycling and waste. Naturalistic, immersive virtual reality environments (VREs) were designed ad hoc to display three kinds of statistical evidence formats, featured as three different formats (i.e., numerical, concrete and mixed). Participants were exposed only to one of the three formats in VR, and their affect, emotions, sense of presence, general attitudes toward the environment, specific attitudes and behavioral intentions toward plastic, use, waste, recycle, as well as their social desirability proneness were measured. Numerical format was the least effective across all dimensions. Concrete and mixed formats were similar. Social desirability only partially affected participants’ attitudes and behavioral intentions. Numerical format did not increase the persuasive efficacy of statistical evidence displayed in VR, with respect to visual alone. Implications and future directions for designing effective VRE promoting pro-environmental behaviors were discussed.
Alice Chirico
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Alice Chirico
added a research item
If experiences of profound transformation have a core moment, that can be awe, an emotion able to maximize the possibility to change especially through its self-transcendent nature. Awe arises from stimuli so vast to prompt people to go beyond their current schema. Awe would drag people into a deep moment of uncertainty in which assimilation process fails, but accommodation has not successfully taken place yet. In this middle-suspended moment of extreme potential, everything might occur. This entry started with the current psychological definition of awe; then, it summarizes main researches in this field. Finally, I outlined the transformative nature of this phenomenon – as a self-transcendent emotion – and a new perspective to frame it in relation to a sense of possibility to change.
Giuseppe Riva
added a research item
We will probably never go to the Moon, climb Mount Everest, or swim with dolphins. Virtual reality (VR), however, can allow us to do all these things using the simulative power of computers and smartphones. Specifically, what distinguishes VR from other media is the sense of presence: the feeling of "being there" inside the virtual experience produced by the technology. The feeling of presence, associated with the high level of emotional engagement allowed by virtual experiences, turns this technology into a powerful tool for exploring what is possible and engaging with it, supporting personal and clinical change.
Andrea Gaggioli
added a research item
Self-referencing refers to a set of cognitive processes that individuals use to understand incoming information, by relating it to one’s self or personal experiences (Northoff, 2006). Previous research has shown that self-referencing promotes narrative engagement, defined as the “degree of immersion” into the narrative content (Escalas, 2007; McDonald et al., 2015). In the present contribution, we explored the impact of autobiographical self-referencing (ASR) on sense of presence and emotions elicited by an immersive narrative. We manipulated ASR by asking participants in the experimental condition (N=36; 18 females; 18 males) to relate a virtual narrative to an episode of their past, present or future life. In the no ASR condition (N=35; 17 females, 18 males), participants were instructed to appraise the immersive narrative with no explicit request to form autobiographical associations. The virtual experience lasted approximately 6 min and was delivered through a head-mounted display. It tells the story of sail boat being caught in a fierce and enduring storm, causing the ship to almost capsize. However, the vessel survives the storm, and eventually clear skies return. The virtual scenario does not include human characters. After the experience, all participants were asked to type a list of all the thoughts they had while they were immersed in the virtual scenario. The thought protocols were later coded to identify associations with personal stories. Next, all participants filled three self-reported measures to assess the experiential profile of the immersive narrative. The Positive Affect and Negative Affect Schedule (PANAS) was administered before and after the virtual experience to signal changes in positive and negative affect. The ITC-Sense of Presence Inventory (ITC-SOPI) was administered after the virtual experience to measure presence. Finally, personal relevance of the narrative was assessed via an ad-hoc, three items scale. As expected, data revealed that participants in the self-referencing condition reported higher number of autobiographical associations than participants in the no self-referencing condition. A parametric-samples t-test was conducted to compare sense of presence and personal relevance in the two experimental conditions, showing no significant differences between groups. A mixed ANOVA was performed on PANAS scores, with group as a between-subject factor and time as a within-subject factor. In PANAS-PA, neither the main effect of time, nor the main effect of group, nor the time x group interaction turned out to be significant. The ANOVA on PANAS-NA scores revealed no significant main effects, however, a significant time x group interaction was found [F(1, 61) = 6.101, p = .016, partial η2 = .08], with levels of negative affect increasing in the experimental condition from baseline to post-measure. These findings indicate that experiencing the immersive narrative in the self-reference mode generated more autobiographical associations compared with the no self-reference mode, but the manipulation of self-relevance did not produce a significant impact on sense of presence and positive affect. The significant increase in negative affect at post-measurement in the self-reference condition may be explained in light of the hypothesis (which preliminary analyses of reported associations seem to support) that the situation described by the immersive narrative (i.e., a ship facing a storm) could have preferentially elicited associations with challenging autobiographical situations charged with negative emotions, be them either actual life events (i.e., facing a real storm) or metaphorical translations of life events (i.e., sailing used as a metaphor for a stressful university exam), thus enhancing also the intensity of the resulting affect (Velten, 1968). While this explanation requires further validation, in overall these findings tentatively suggest that self-referencing may play a role in shaping the affective profile of an immersive narrative experience, with potential implications for clinical applications of virtual storytelling.
Andrea Gaggioli
added a project reference
Giuseppe Riva
added a research item
Nel corso della storia la specie umana ha sviluppato numerose tecniche per rappresentare la realtà. La frontiera più avanzata di questa evoluzione è costituita dalla realtà virtuale, una tecnologia che consente di creare esperienze digitali all'interno delle quali una persona può muoversi e interagire come se si trattasse di uno spazio reale. In particolare, la realtà virtuale ha il potenziale per trasformare radicalmente l'esperienza umana, con applicazioni che spaziano dal marketing alla formazione, alla riabilitazione e alla psicoterapia. Il volume racconta questa "rivoluzione virtuale", oggi guidata da grandi società quali Facebook, Google, Microsoft e Amazon, cercando di spiegare come le tecnologie simulative stanno cambiando il modo in cui le persone comunicano, collaborano e si divertono e analizzando le opportunità e le sfide implicate dall'emergere dei mondi virtuali.
Andrea Gaggioli
added a research item
Technology for supporting wellbeing has long been an aim for many disciplines, including computer science, psychology, and human-computer interaction. However, the definition of wellbeing is not always clear and this has implications for how we design for and assess technologies that aim to foster it. Here, we discuss current definitions of wellbeing and how it correlates with and sometimes is an outcome of self-transcendence. We then focus on how technologies can support wellbeing through experiences of self-transcendence, ending with possible future directions.
Andrea Gaggioli
added a research item
Several researches have revealed the potential of awe, a complex emotion arising from vast stimuli able to prompt for a restructuration of people’ mental schema, on wellbeing and health. Despite a lot has been revealed about awe, researchers still face the challenge of eliciting intense instances of awe in a controlled way. A combination of two or more emotion-induction techniques can enhance the intensity of the resulting emotion. VR has resulted as one of the best techniques to elicit awe, but it has never been tested in combination with other effective awe-inducing methods, such as music. Here, we tested the combined effect of VR and music on the resulting awe’s intensity. We randomly assigned 76 healthy participants to one of these four conditions: (i) VR with background sounds (ii) VR and Music, (iii) only Music; (iv) VR without sounds. VR environments and music have been validated in previous studies on awe. Before the exposure to each stimulus, we asked participants to rate the extent to which they felt (i.e., experienced) seven emotions. After the exposure, we measured also how much participants perceived (i.e., they “read” it into the emotional material) each of the seven emotions, as well as their general affect (Positive and Negative Affective Schedule), their sense of presence (i.e., how much participants felt to be “present” within a scene) (ITC-SOPI Inventory), the sense of perceived vastness and need for accommodation associated to the stimulus material (Brief Awe-Scale). We also assessed also participants’ disposition to live seven discrete positive emotions (Dispositional Positive Emotions Scale) and musical preferences (STOMP). “VR with Music” condition elicited a higher (even not significant) sense of ecological validity compared to Music condition. All conditions elicited significantly higher sense of felt awe, joy, and fear compared to the baseline and a significantly lower anger after each condition. Participants in the Music condition felt a lowest sense of amusement after the exposure. We found no effect of condition on felt awe. Conversely, perceived awe was significantly higher in the “VR and Music” condition compared to the Music condition. “VR without sounds” condition elicited significantly higher sense of fear compared to Music condition, and significantly lower sense of pride and sadness compared to Music condition. We found no significant effect for any covariate variable. These results have relevant implications for fundamental research on awe and to design awe-based training enhancing wellbeing health, or targeting severe emotional disorders, such as Depression.
Andrea Gaggioli
added an update
L’esperienza trasformativa: modelli, contesti e applicazioni
Organizers and co-chairs: Andrea Gaggioli (1), (2) and Alice Chirico (1)
Discussant: Carlo Galimberti (1)
(1) Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore, Milano; (2) I.R.C.C.S. Istituto Auxologico Italiano
Per quanto il cambiamento sia un aspetto di rilevanza centrale per la psicologia, questo fenomeno è ancora poco compreso. Normalmente, il cambiamento psicologico è considerato un processo lineare, graduale e cumulativo. Tuttavia, esiste una seconda tipologia di cambiamento – il cambiamento trasformativo, già teorizzato da William James nel contesto delle esperienze mistiche e religiose, caratterizzato da un’alterazione radicale, talvolta subitanea e spesso irreversibile delle proprie credenze, valori e priorità. Secondo diversi studi, che includono anche le ricerche sulla crescita post-traumatica e post-estatica, il cambiamento trasformativo è associato a esperienze peculiari (come quelle trascendenti e di “picco”) e a particolari stati emotivi (come la meraviglia e il sublime) che sono oggi oggetto di crescente interesse da parte della comunità scientifica. Il presente simposio intende offrire uno sguardo di approfondimento sull’esperienza trasformativa e gettare luce sul potenziale applicativo di questo fenomeno, attraverso contributi sperimentali in diversi contesti di ricerca.
 
Andrea Gaggioli
added a research item
Some life experiences can generate profound and long-lasting shifts in core beliefs and attitudes, including subjective transformation. These experiences can change what individuals know and value, their perspective on the world and life, evolving them as a grown person. For these characteristics, transformative experiences are gaining increasing attention in psychology, neuroscience, and philosophy. One potentially interesting question related to transformative experiences concerns how they can be invited by means of interactive technologies. This question lies at the center of a new research program, transformative experience design, which has two aims: (1) to investigate phenomenological and neurocognitive aspects of transformative experiences, as well as their implications for individual growth and psychological well-being; and (2) to translate such knowledge into tentative design principles for developing experiences that aim to support meaning in life and personal growth. Our goal for this SIG is to discuss challenges and opportunities for transformative experiences in the context of interactive technologies.
Giuseppe Riva
added a research item
Different studies suggest that Virtual Reality (VR) is an effective tool for behavioural health, with long-term effects that generalize to the real world. Here we suggest that the efficacy of VR can be explained by how it works. Specifically, VR shares with our brain the same basic mechanism: embodied simulations. Different major discoveries in the field of neuroscience suggest that our brain produces and updates an embodied simulation of the body in the world. This simulation is actively used by different cognitive processes to represent and predict actions, concepts, and emotions. VR works in a similar way: through the integration of data from trackers and contents of a simulated 3D world, a VR system builds a model (simulation) of the body and the space around it. Like the brain, the VR system uses the simulation to predict the sensory consequences of the individual’s movements. In this view, the more the VR model is similar to the brain model, the more the individual feels present in the VR world. The paper discusses the potential of this link, by suggesting the emergence of a new clinical approach that uses the simulative potential of VR to exploit/empower (transformation of flow) and/or correct/update (embodied medicine) the predictive/simulative mechanisms of the brain.
Andrea Gaggioli
added a research item
Although virtual reality (VR) is increasingly regarded as an effective emotion induction technique, little research has examined whether and how emotions elicited in VR differ from those evoked in real life. To address this question, 50 participants (25 females and 25 males) were exposed to either a real-life contemplative scenario (a panoramic view of a lake) or to an immersive 360° footage of the same landscape. Next, type and valence of emotions, as well as sense of presence reported by participants, were compared across conditions. Findings showed that emotions elicited by virtual and natural conditions were not significantly different. The only exception was anger, which was significantly higher in the natural condition, and amusement, which was significantly higher in the virtual condition. Sense of physical presence and engagement dimensions of presence did not significantly differ between virtual and real conditions. However, different correlation patterns between emotions and key dimensions of presence were found after in vivo and in virtuo exposure. These findings provide initial evidence that emotions and sense of presence elicited by immersive videos are comparable with those evoked by real-life scenarios and warrant further investigations.
Giuseppe Riva
added a research item
Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women worldwide, with increases in diagnoses at all ages. Due to several age-related factors, older breast cancer patients show particular difficulties in adjusting to breast cancer and its related treatments. One consistent indicator of vulnerability to long-term complications is emotional distress occurring within 3 months of diagnosis. Thus, it is critical to develop early interventions specifically aimed at mitigating distress and promoting emotional wellbeing in older breast cancer patients. By taking advantage of the opportunities of online interventions, the present study aimed to test the efficacy of a 2 weeks e-health stress inoculation training (SIT) intervention on emotion regulation and cancer-related well-being, compared with a control group without such intervention. Twenty-nine women with a diagnosis of breast cancer, who had received radical surgery and who were suitable candidates for adjuvant chemotherapy with anthracyclines and taxanes (mean age = 62.76; SD = 6.19) voluntarily took part in the current study after giving written informed consent. To test intervention efficacy, self-report questionnaires were administered to all participants at baseline, at the end of the 2 weeks intervention, and 3 months after the end of the intervention. Results showed that after 2 weeks of ehealth intervention, patients did not achieve significant change, however, they significantly reduced emotional suppression and increased cancer-related emotional well-being 3 months after the end of the intervention. Furthermore, by monitoring at a distance the emotional experience during the online intervention, we found an increase in relaxation and a reduction of anxiety. Finally, patients in the experimental group reported a good level of acceptance of the ehealth intervention. To conclude, designing and developing eHealth interventions as part of the regular care path for breast cancer patients of all ages represents both a challenge and an opportunity; in particular, online interventions can be an important step in universal psychosocial care within a tiered model of care.
Andrea Gaggioli
added a research item
In this study we addressed the psychological impact of transformative learning (Mezirow, 1994, 2000) resulting from study abroad experience in a group of 163 Italian university students before leaving (T1) on a six-month international program to different countries between 2016-2017, immediately after return (T2), and six months after return (T3). The core dimension of transformative change, i.e., perspective transformation (Mezirow, 1981), was measured as higher social perspective taking propensity and confidence; lower intercultural apprehension. Psycholinguistic impact consisted in higher second language self-efficacy and lower second language speaking anxiety. 64% of students reported undergoing a transformative experience. The study of the role of positive emotions in the transformative learning experience showed higher levels of joy, contentment and pride and higher psychological flexibility. Most students did not report a transformative experience triggered by a disorienting dilemma with feelings of discontent as conceptualized in Mezirow’s original model, but a gradual adoption of new actions. These results were partially in line with recent studies on alternative processes of transformative learning. Six months after return the psychological impact of the transformative learning proved stable, with an increase in the positive emotion Love, connected to feelings of trust, closeness, reliability.
Giuseppe Riva
added a research item
The recent appearance of low cost virtual reality (VR) technologies-like the Oculus Rift, the HTC Vive and the Sony PlayStation VR-and Mixed Reality Interfaces (MRITF)-like the Hololens-is attracting the attention of users and researchers suggesting it may be the next largest stepping stone in technological innovation. However, the history of VR technology is longer than it may seem: the concept of VR was formulated in the 1960s and the first commercial VR tools appeared in the late 1980s. For this reason, during the last 20 years, 100s of researchers explored the processes, effects, and applications of this technology producing 1000s of scientific papers. What is the outcome of this significant research work? This paper wants to provide an answer to this question by exploring, using advanced scientometric techniques, the existing research corpus in the field. We collected all the existent articles about VR in the Web of Science Core Collection scientific database, and the resultant dataset contained 21,667 records for VR and 9,944 for augmented reality (AR). The bibliographic record contained various fields, such as author, title, abstract, country, and all the references (needed for the citation analysis). The network and cluster analysis of the literature showed a composite panorama characterized by changes and evolutions over the time. Indeed, whether until 5 years ago, the main publication media on VR concerned both conference proceeding and journals, more recently journals constitute the main medium of communication. Similarly, if at first computer science was the leading research field, nowadays clinical areas have increased, as well as the number of countries involved in VR research. The present work discusses the evolution and changes over the time of the use of VR in the main areas of application with an emphasis on the future expected VR's capacities, increases and challenges. We conclude considering the disruptive contribution that VR/AR/MRITF will be able to get in scientific fields, as well in human communication and interaction, as already happened with the advent of mobile phones by increasing the use and the development of scientific applications (e.g., in clinical areas) and by modifying the social communication and interaction among people.
Andrea Gaggioli
added a research item
Here we introduce the design and preliminary validation of a general-purpose architecture for affective-driven procedural content generation in Virtual Reality (VR) applications in mental health and wellbeing. The architecture supports seven commercial physiological sensing technologies and can be deployed in immersive and non-immersive VR systems. To demonstrate the concept, we developed the "The Emotional Labyrinth", a non-linear scenario in which navigation in a procedurally-generated 3D maze is entirely decided by the user, and whose features are dynamically adapted according to a set of emotional states. During navigation, affective states are dynamically represented through pictures, music, and animated visual metaphors chosen to represent and induce affective states. The underlying hypothesis is that exposing users to multimodal representations of their affective states can create a feedback loop that supports emotional self-awareness and fosters more effective emotional regulation strategies. We carried out a first study to (i) assess the effectiveness of the selected metaphors in inducing target emotions, and (ii) identify relevant psycho-physiological markers of the emotional experience generated by the labyrinth. Results show that the Emotional Labyrinth is overall a pleasant experience in which the proposed procedural content generation can induce distinctive psycho-physiological patterns, generally coherent with the meaning of the metaphors used in the labyrinth design. Further, collected psycho-physiological responses such as electrocardiography, respiration, electrodermal activity, and electromyography are used to generate computational models of users' reported experience. These models enable the future implementation of the closed loop mechanism to adapt the Labyrinth procedurally to the users' affective state.
Andrea Gaggioli
added a research item
Human-computer confluence refers to an invisible, implicit, embodied or even implanted interaction between humans and system components. New classes of user interfaces are emerging that make use of several sensors and are able to adapt their physical properties to the current situational context of users. A key aspect of human-computer confluence is its potential for transforming human experience in the sense of bending, breaking and blending the barriers between the real, the virtual and the augmented, to allow users to experience their body and their world in new ways. Research on Presence, Embodiment and Brain-Computer Interface is already exploring these boundaries and asking questions such as: Can we seamlessly move between the virtual and the real? Can we assimilate fundamentally new senses through confluence? The aim of this book is to explore the boundaries and intersections of the multidisciplinary field of HCC and discuss its potential applications in different domains, including healthcare, education, training and even arts.
Andrea Gaggioli
added a research item
In this article, the authors elaborate on 2 ideas advanced in Schneider’s (2017) innovative article on the resurgence of awe in psychology. Taking a cue from his claim to recover a “slow simmer form” of awe (i.e., deeper, destabilizing, challenging, and ambiguous) using mixed-methods, the authors highlight the need to reframe the concept of awe as closer to an experience than to an emotion. This implies focusing not only on a mixed-methodology to study awe but also on a new way of inducing it. Specifically, if awe is considered as an experience, an experiential approach would be required to induce it. The authors provided examples of recent studies that relied on Virtual Reality (VR) as an effective experiential approach to elicit the “slow simmer form” of awe in the lab. A controlled induction of awe through VR can lead to more intense awe, thus drawing near the desired “slow simmer form.” Schneider’s claim can provide the theoretical underpinning to support this new conceptualization of awe as an experience as well as its experimental investigation.
Andrea Gaggioli
added 2 research items
Il contributo si focalizza sul concetto di presenza, sui principi che la definiscono con particolare riferimento ai contesti virtuali, e sul ruolo che viene giocato dalle estetiche percepite – ovvero dai processi di significazione di carattere psicologico e antropologico – e da quelle costruite – e dunque dal ruolo degli artefatti tecnologici che si interpongono nella mediazione con la VR. Si partirà da un concetto condiviso di ambiente/contesto virtuale e di presenza, nelle sue diverse accezioni. Si dedicherà parte del lavoro alla presentazione del dibattito, tutt’oggi aperto, in relazione agli elementi che favoriscono l’immersione nei contesti virtuali e la percezione di un senso di presenza maggiore. Uno spazio verrà riservato al tema delle emozioni suscitate dalla esperienze virtuali in relazione alla fruizione dei contesti ricreati. Infine, si proporrà un passo ulteriore fornendo un contributo interpretativo e collocando la presenza narrativa ed emotiva come principio di fondo delle esperienze mediate.
Awe is a complex emotion composed of an appraisal of vastness and a need for accommodation. The purpose of this study was to develop a robust state measure of awe, the Awe Experience Scale (AWE-S), based on the extant experimental literature. In study 1, participants (N = 501) wrote about an intense moment of awe that they had experienced and then completed a survey about their experience. Exploratory factor analysis revealed a 6-factor structure, including: altered time perception (F1); self-diminishment (F2); connectedness (F3); perceived vastness (F4); physical sensations (F5); need for accommodation (F6). Internal consistency was strong for each factor (α ≥ .80). Study 2 confirmed the 6-factor structure (N = 636) using fit indices (CFI = .905; RMSEA = .054). Each factor of the AWES is significantly correlated with the awe items of the modified Differential Emotions Scale (mDES) and Dispositional Positive Emotion Scale (D-PES). Triggers, valence, and themes associated with awe experiences are reported.
Andrea Gaggioli
added an update
CYPSY23: 23RD ANNUAL CYBERPSYCHOLOGY, CYBERTHERAPY & SOCIAL NETWORKING CONFERENCE
There are experiences in life that are able to generate profound and long-lasting shifts in core beliefs and attitudes, including subjective self-transformation [1]. These experiences have the capacity of changing not only what individuals know and value, but also how they see the world. For these characteristics, transformative experiences are gaining increasing attention not only in psychology and neuroscience, but also in philosophy. From a psychological perspective, transformative change is often associated to specific experiential states, defined “self-transcendence experiences”. These are transient mental states that allow individuals experiencing something greater of themselves, reflecting on deeper dimensions of their existence and shaping lasting spiritual beliefs. These experiences encompass several mental states, including flow, positive emotions such as awe and elevation, “peak” experiences, “mystical” experiences and mindfulness (for a review, see Yaden et al. [2]). Although the phenomenological profile of these experiential states can vary significantly in terms of quality and intensity, they are characterized by a diminished sense of self and increased feelings of connectedness to other people and one’s surroundings [2]. Previous research has shown that self-transcendent experiences are important sources of positive psychological outcomes, including increased meaning in life, positive mood and life satisfaction, positive behavior change, spiritual development and pro-social attitudes. One potentially interesting question related to self-transcendent experiences concerns whether, and to which extent, these mental states can be invited or elicited by means of interactive technologies. This question lies at the center of a new research program – transformative experience design (TED) [3] – which has a two-fold aims: (i) to systematically investigate the phenomenological and neurocognitive aspects of self-transcendent experiences, as well as their implications for individual growth and psychological wellbeing; and (ii) to translate such knowledge into a tentative set of design principles for developing “e-experiences” that support meaning in life and personal growth. More specifically, the TED framework has identified three possible assets that can be combined to achieve this goal. The first strategy concerns the use of advanced simulation technologies, such as virtual, augmented and mixed reality, as the elective medium to generate controlled alteration of perceptual, motor and cognitive processes. The second asset regards the use of the language of arts to create emotionally-compelling storytelling scenarios. The third and final element of TED concerns the use of brain-based technologies, such as brain stimulation and bio/neurofeedback, to modulate neuro-physiological processes underlying self-transcendence mental states, using a closed-loop approach. The central assumption of TED is that the combination of these means provides a broad spectrum of transformative possibilities, which include, for example, “what it is like” to embody another self or another life form, simulating peculiar neurological phenomena like synesthesia or out-of-body experiences, and altering time and space perception. The safe and controlled use of these e-experiences hold the potential to facilitate self-knowledge and self-understanding, foster creative expression, develop new skills, and recognize and learn the value of others. The goal of this symposium is to introduce attendees to emerging research in transformative experience design as well as to explore the theoretical and methodological challenges associated to this topic.
Presentations: - Katerina Stepanova, A framework for studying Transformative Experiences through VR - Andrea Gaggioli, Closing the loop: User-Adaptive Generative Virtual Reality - Alexandra Kitson, Lucid Dreaming as a Lens into Transformative Experience Design for Virtual Reality - Alice Chirico, The Continuum of Self-transcendence: Flow Experience and the emotion of Awe
References
[1] Miller, W. R., & C'de Baca, J. (2001). Quantum change: When epiphanies and sudden insights transform ordinary lives. New York: Guilford Press.
[2] Yaden, D. B., Haidt, J., Hood, R. W., Jr., Vago, D. R., & Newberg, A. B. (2017). The varieties of self-transcendent experience. Review of General Psychology, 21(2), 143-160.
[3] Gaggioli, A. (2016). Transformative Experience Design. In Human Computer Confluence. Transforming Human Experience Through Symbiotic Technologies, eds A. Gaggioli, A. Ferscha, G. Riva, S. Dunne, and I. Viaud-Delmon (Berlin: De Gruyter Open), 96–121.
 
Andrea Gaggioli
added a research item
Awe is a complex emotion characterized by feelings of vastness and a need for accommodation. The aim of this study was to investigate whether the experience of awe impacts on peculiar dimensions of creative potential in terms of creative thinking. Fifty-two university students were exposed both to an awe-inducing 3D-video and to a neutral one in a within-subject design. After each video, participants reported the intensity and type of perceived emotion and completed two verbal tasks of the Torrance Tests of Creative Thinking (TTCT; Torrance, 1974). A direct causal relationship between awe and creative thinking was tested using generalized linear model. Results showed that awe affected key creative thinking components—fluency, flexibility and elaboration measured by the product improvement test—compared to the neutral stimulus. Implications of these findings for future research and limitations are discussed.
Andrea Gaggioli
added an update
In this chapter, I introduce Transformative Experience Design (TED), a conceptual framework for exploring how next-generation interactive technologies might be used to support long lasting changes in the self-world. At the center of the proposed framework is the elicitation of transformative experiences, which are experiences designed to facilitate an epistemic expansion through the (controlled) alteration of sensorial, perceptual, cognitive and affective processes. The chapter intends to provide a groundwork for research on transformative design.
Full reference: Gaggioli, A. (2016). Transformative Experience Design. In Human Computer Confluence. Transforming Human Experience Through Symbiotic Technologies, eds A. Gaggioli, A. Ferscha, G. Riva, S. Dunne, and I. Viaud-Delmon (Berlin: De Gruyter Open), 96–121.
 
Andrea Gaggioli
added an update
We are pleased that our first symposium on "Transformative Experience Design", organized by me, Alice Chirico and Bernhard E. Riecke has been officially accepted at CYPSY23: 23rd Annnual Cyberpsychology, Cybertherapy and Social Networking Conference.
Here is the symposium program: http://easychair.org/smart-program/CYPSY23/
 
Andrea Gaggioli
added a research item
Awe is a complex emotion that influences positively individuals’ wellbeing both at a physical and at a psychological level. Eliciting awe in a lab setting is a delicate task, and several effective techniques have been developed to pursue this goal, such as audio-video stimuli. Nevertheless, a standardized procedure to select these audio-video awe-inducing stimuli is still needed. Therefore, we validated a methodology to select and discriminate among awe- inducing stimuli. The novelty of the methodology is two-fold: (i) it allows testing whether each content elicited the target emotion, and (ii) it allows to identify the most awe-conductive videos, using both classical statistics and Bayesian analyses. Four videos displaying awe, amusement and neutral contents were shown to participants in a counterbalanced order. This procedure allowed for identifying and validating awe-inducing stimuli that can be pliably used to improve individual’s wellbeing and mental health in different contexts.
Andrea Gaggioli
added a research item
Awe is a little-studied emotion with a great transformative potential. Therefore, the interest towards the study of awe’s underlying mechanisms has been increased. Specifically, researchers have been interested in how to reproduce intense feelings of awe within laboratory conditions. It has been proposed that the use of Virtual Reality (VR) could be an effective way to induce awe in controlled experimental settings, thanks to its ability of providing participants with a sense of “presence”, that is, the subjective feeling of being displaced in another physical or imaginary place. However, the potential of VR as awe-inducing medium has not been fully tested yet. In the present study, we provided an evidence-based design and a validation of four immersive virtual environments (VEs) involving 36 participants in a within-subject design. Of these, three VEs were designed to induce awe, whereas the fourth VE was targeted as an emotionally-neutral stimulus. Participants self-reported the extent to which they felt awe, general affect and sense of presence related to each environment. As expected, results showed that awe-VEs could induce significantly higher levels of awe and presence as compared to the neutral VE. Furthermore, these VEs induced significantly more positive than negative affect. These findings supported the potential of immersive VR for inducing awe and provide useful indications for the design of awe-inspiring virtual environments.
Andrea Gaggioli
added a research item
VR applications in wellbeing and therapy have typically been based on pre-designed objects and spaces. Here, we suggest a different approach, in which the content of a virtual world is procedurally generated at runtime (that is, through algorithmic means) according to the user’s affective responses. To demonstrate the concept, we developed the “Emotional Labyrinth”. In this VR experience, the user walks through a endless maze, whose structure and contents are automatically generated according to four basic emotional states: joy, sadness, anger and fear. These affective states are automatically detected on the basis of cardiorespiratory measures, using the heuristic decision tree developed by Reinville et al. (2006). To unlock the next level of the maze, the user has to solve an “emotional challenge”, consisting in the self-induction of target emotional states, i.e., by thinking about joyful moments to induce joy. The difficulty of the next labyrinth is determined by the user’s performance in the emotional challenge. In addition, different visual metaphors are generated at runtime to portray the elicited emotional responses: for example, the emotional state of sadness is visually rendered as rain; joy is represented by blooming flowers. We are interested in understanding whether participants are able to learn to regulate their emotions in order to influence the generation of the content of the virtual world; and which factors can affect this process.
Giuseppe Riva
added a research item
In the last 20 years, the debate on the role of emotions in the field of industrial design has grown exponentially. Emotional Design emerged as the effort to promote positive emotions or pleasure in users by means of design properties of products and services. Design based on emotions can affect overall user experience deeply, since emotions influence decision making, affect attention, memory, and generate meaning. It is possible to identify two main approaches to applied emotional design. The first is based on the modification of object’s aesthetic appearance or interface, the latter focuses on promoting fluent and engaging interactions. The objective of the present contribution is to extend the discourse on emotional design, highlighting that technology designers can rely on other components beyond the above-mentioned aesthetic and engagement ones, in order to create innovative and effective devices. Indeed, emotions have further aspects that could be exploited by emotional designers. According to this perspective, new technologies can be considered and treated as opportunities to manipulate, enhance and trigger different discrete, and even complex emotional states. Moreover, emotions can “participate” to interaction (instead of being a mere byproduct of it), by providing inputs to digital technologies to modify or influence final outputs. This contribution explores opportunities provided by conceiving emotions as cognitive processes and active agents of interactions, in the field of emotional design.
Andrea Gaggioli
added an update
Interested in the transformative potential of technology? Then do not miss our new Frontiers research topic on Positive Technology!
Frontiers in Psychology is the #1 largest and the #2 most cited psychology journal in the world - Impact Factor: 2.463 (as accessed May 2017)
Submission Deadlines:
30 September 2017 -> Abstract
28 February 2018 -> Manuscript
We look forward to receive your contribution!
About this Research Topic
In recent years, there has been a growing interest in the potential role that digital technologies can play in promoting well-being. Smartphones, wearable devices, virtual/augmented reality, social media, and the internet provide a wealth of useful tools and resources to support psychological interventions that facilitate positive emotions, resilience, personal growth, creativity, and social connectedness.
Understanding the full extent of this potential, however, requires an interdisciplinary approach that integrates the scientific principles of well-being into the design of e-experiences that foster positive change. Positive Technology is an emergent field within human-computer interaction that seeks to understand how interactive technologies can be used in evidence-based well-being interventions. It’s focus of analysis is two-fold: at the theoretical level, Positive Technology aims to develop conceptual frameworks and models for understanding how computers can be effectively used to help individuals achieve greater well-being. At the methodological and applied level, Positive Technology is concerned with the design, development, and validation of digital experiences that promote positive change through pleasure, flow, meaning, competence, and positive relationships.
This Research Topic aims to explore the potential of interactive technology for well-being applications by focusing on the following issues:
- methodological issues in designing and evaluating positive technologies;
- technology-based strategies for promoting positive emotions and fostering eudaimonic and self-actualizing experiences;
- computer-based applications in stress prevention, monitoring, and management;
- online positive interventions;
- interactive technologies and positive change;
- digital tools & strategies for enhancing individual and team creativity;
- videogames and serious games for mental health prevention and promotion;
- technology and spirituality; - positive technologies for healthy ageing;
- technology-based interventions to promote life skills and social connectedness;
- self-help applications to learn affective regulation strategies (at their multiple levels: e.g., interpersonal, intrapersonal; automatic, explicit; covert, overt).
Keywords: human-media interaction, positive psychology interventions, cyberpsychology, mental health
 
Andrea Gaggioli
added a research item
Awe, a complex emotion composed by the appraisal components of vastness and need for accommodation, is a profound and often meaningful experience. Despite its importance, psychologists have only recently begun empirical study of awe. At the experimental level, a main issue concerns how to elicit high intensity awe experiences in the lab. To address this issue, Virtual Reality (VR) has been proposed as a potential solution. Here, we considered the highest realistic form of VR: immersive videos. 42 participants watched at immersive and normal 2D videos displaying an awe or a neutral content. After the experience, they rated their level of awe and sense of presence. Participants’ psychophysiological responses (BVP, SC, sEMG) were recorded during the whole video exposure. We hypothesized that the immersive video condition would increase the intensity of awe experienced compared to 2D screen videos. Results indicated that immersive videos significantly enhanced the self-reported intensity of awe as well as the sense of presence. Immersive videos displaying an awe content also led to higher parasympathetic activation. These findings indicate the advantages of using VR in the experimental study of awe, with methodological implications for the study of other emotions.
Giuseppe Riva
added a research item
More and more of our daily activities depend on some kind of inter-active device or digital service. Furthermore, the use of information and communication technologies (ICTs) is not limited to the long hours that we spend at the office. Computers and other digital devices have become regular companions in our daily lives, but have they made us any happier? Interestingly, the majority of psychological studies on the impact of technologies on well-being have focused on their potential negative effects, including investigations into cyber addiction, techno-stress, violent video-games, privacy risks, etc. On the other side, less attention has been paid to the question of how interactive digital systems could be used to improve well-being of individuals and groups. Designing for digital experience that promotes psychological knowledge and theory relating to those factors known to make life more fulfilling, with the technological expertise required to turn these factors into practical services and applications. The aim of this chapter is to introduce the concepts of Positive Technology and Positive Computing and examine some illustrative approaches. We will first introduce the field of positive psychology and examine key theoretical models. Next, we will discuss the objectives and main application areas of these design approaches. Last, we will consider some key challenges and future research directions for this emergent interdisciplinary area.
Andrea Gaggioli
added a project reference
Giuseppe Riva
added an update
Embodied Medicine: the use of advanced technologies for altering the experience of being in a body with the goal of improving health and well-being
 
Giuseppe Riva
added a research item
Numerous studies have shown an alarming prevalence of depression, anxiety, and behavior disorders in youth. Thus, prevention of psychological problems in this population becomes crucial. According to the World Health Organization (1), prevention should also include the promotion and development of the individual’s strengths in order to reduce vulnerability to suffering from mental disorders. In addition, other key elements of prevention are the reach, adoption, implementation, and maintenance of interventions. The information and communication technologies, especially the Internet, have much to offer in terms of the prevention and promotion of positive mental health in adolescents. This paper reviews these fields of research—prevention, positive psychology, Internet, and adolescents—and discusses the potential of positive interventions delivered over the Internet as effective and sustainable health promotion tools. The paper provides a brief description of the systems developed so far and a summary of selected features of the studies detected in the literature review. The overall conclusions are that there is a need for more controlled studies with long-term follow-ups, the interventions should be designed considering the specific features of the target users and the specific contexts where the interventions will be delivered, and they could be enhanced by the use of other technologies, such as smartphones, sensors, or social networks.
Stefano Triberti
added a research item
Dal tempo della rivoluzione industriale fino a oggi, nell'era post-Internet in cui tecnologie immersive promettono di assisterci in tutte le attività della vita quotidiana, il problema della valutazione di prodotti, servizi e tecnologie si è fatto sempre più cruciale. Diverse discipline hanno fornito contributi sistematici allo studio della tecnologia: l'ergonomia, l'Interazione Uomo-Computer, l'usabilità; in seguito, la User Experience ha dato pieno riconoscimento alle numerose variabili che influenzano l'uso di oggetti e tecnologie, principalmente le emozioni, l'adeguatezza ai reali contesti d'uso e le caratteristiche degli utenti. Radicato nell'evoluzione storica e culturale di tali discipline, questo libro intende fornire un punto di vista psicologico, e tuttavia integrato e aperto alla complessità della UX, e si configura come uno strumento agile e scientificamente solido per comprendere gli aspetti fondamentali dell'utilizzo delle tecnologie, e i loro effetti sugli utenti umani. Il volume è completato da interviste a figure di rilievo in campo professionale e accademico nell'ambito UX nazionale e internazionale, focalizzate sulla condivisione di competenze, esperienze e metodologie.
Andrea Gaggioli
added a research item
Until now, information and communication technologies have been mostly conceived as a mean to support human activities – communication, productivity, leisure. However, as the sophistication of digital tools increases, researchers are starting to consider their potential role in supporting the fullfilment of higher human needs, such as self-actualization and self-transcendence. In this chapter, I introduce Transformative Experience Design (TED), a conceptual framework for exploring how next-generation interactive technologies might be used to support long-lasting changes in the self-world. At the center of this framework is the elicitation of transformative experiences, which are experiences designed to facilitate an epistemic expansion through the (controlled) alteration of sensorial, perceptual, cognitive and affective processes.
Giuseppe Riva
added an update
Andrea Gaggioli
added a research item
The emotion of awe is characterized by the perception of vastness and a need for accommodation, which can include a positive and/or negative valence. While a number of studies have successfully manipulated this emotion, the issue of how to elicit particularly intense awe experiences in laboratory settings remains. We suggest that virtual reality (VR) is a particularly effective mood induction tool for eliciting awe. VR provides three key assets for improving awe. First, VR provides users with immersive and ecological yet controlled environments that can elicit a sense of " presence, " the subjective experience of " being there " in a simulated reality. Further, VR can be used to generate complex, vast stimuli, which can target specific theoretical facets of awe. Finally, VR allows for convenient tracking of participants' behavior and physiological responses, allowing for more integrated assessment of emotional experience. We discussed the potential and challenges of the proposed approach with an emphasis on VR's capacity to raise the signal of reactions to emotions such as awe in laboratory settings.
Alice Chirico
added a research item
Awe is an intense and complex emotion arising in response to stimuli that are vast and difficult to accommodate. Due to its complex nature, capturing an intense version of awe in a lab remains a challenge. One of the conventional techniques used to induce awe are videos stimuli. Despite their effectiveness, we suggest that 360° videos could be used to elicit a more intense version of awe in the lab, which can be deeply captured by a psychophysiological assessment of this emotion. To test this hypothesis, we recorded psychophysiological activity of 30 participants (15 females and 15 males) watching neutral vs. awe-inspiring videos displayed either on a flat or 360° immersive screen, by two within subject conditions, namely content (awe vs. neutral) x medium (2D vs. 360°). In details, two videos depicted a scene of hens wandering (i.e., neutral content) and were presented either on a flat or 360° immersive screen. Also the other two videos were presented either on a flat or 360° immersive screens but showed a forest of tall trees (i.e., awe content). Order of presentation of each video was counterbalanced for each subject. Blood Volume Pulse (BVP) was recorded using a photoplethysmograph sensor. Skin conductance (SC) was recorded using two electrodes attached to the dominant hand. Corrugator Supercilii and Zygomatic Major muscles was recorded using facial superficial electromyography (sEMG). All the signals were recorded during each video session (2 min length) using a ProComp Infinity 8-channel (Thought Technology Ltd, Montreal, Canada). The sampling rate was set at 256 Hz. Heart rate variability (HRV) measures were computed by using custom script in Matlab 7.10.0 (R2010a), to analyze the Inter-Beat Interval (IBI) extracted from the Blood Volume Pulse sensor, a measure equivalent to the R-R peaks interval extracted from the electrocardiogram. According to the guidelines of Task Force of the European Society of Cardiology and the North American Society of Pacing and Electrophysiology, typical temporal and spectral HRV measures were extracted to evaluate the response of the autonomic nervous system. In particular, The rhythms were classified as very low frequency (VLF,< 0.04 Hz), low-frequency (LF, 0.04 to 0.15 Hz), and high frequency (HF, 0.15 to 0.4 Hz) oscillations. Temporal domain was investigated by the means of heart rate (HR) and its standard deviation (SDRR). Our results showed that participants watching an awe both on 360° or 2D video displayed a higher parasympathetic activation as highlighted by higher HF. Moreover, VR stimuli showed a greater sympathetic activation independently from the emotional condition (awe vs. neutral), with higher VLF, LF, HR, SDRR and SC. In line with literature, EMG showed no significant changes. Our results showed that awe leads to a paralyzing “freezing” at autonomic nervous system level.
Andrea Gaggioli
added a research item
In the last years, there has been a growing interest in the role of self-transcendent positive emotions such as awe, elevation and admiration in fostering wellbeing and personal development. In particular, recent studies suggest that the experience of these emotions can promote self-improvement, prosocial behaviour and feelings of spirituality. The goal of this contribution is to introduce Computer-Mediated Self-transcendence (CMST) as a possible new research pathway in Positive Technology, which refers to the use of interactive technologies for promoting, facilitating or enhancing emotional peak experiences. Specifically, we suggest that the goal of CMST can be achieved by combining virtual reality, video-games and the languages of art, to design mediated transformative experiences that include emotional and epistemic affordances. We describe some early examples of CMST and discuss opportunities and challenges of this approach.
Giuseppe Riva
added a research item
During life, many personal changes occur. These include changing house, school, work, and even friends and partners. However, the daily experience shows clearly that, in some situations, subjects are unable to change even if they want to. The recent advances in psychology and neuroscience are now providing a better view of personal change, the change affecting our assumptive world: (a) the focus of personal change is reducing the distance between self and reality (conflict); (b) this reduction is achieved through (1) an intense focus on the particular experience creating the conflict or (2) an internal or external reorganization of this experience; (c) personal change requires a progression through a series of different stages that however happen in discontinuous and non-linear ways; and (d) clinical psychology is often used to facilitate personal change when subjects are unable to move forward. Starting from these premises, the aim of this paper is to review the potential of virtuality for enhancing the processes of personal and clinical change. First, the paper focuses on the two leading virtual technologies – augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) – exploring their current uses in behavioral health and the outcomes of the 28 available systematic reviews and meta-analyses. Then the paper discusses the added value provided by VR and AR in transforming our external experience by focusing on the high level of personal efficacy and self-reflectiveness generated by their sense of presence and emotional engagement. Finally, it outlines the potential future use of virtuality for transforming our inner experience by structuring, altering, and/ or replacing our bodily self-consciousness. The final outcome may be a new generation of transformative experiences that provide knowledge that is epistemically inaccessible to the individual until he or she has that experience, while at the same time transforming the individual's worldview.
Giuseppe Riva
added an update
This paper discusses the possible use of Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality as Transformative Technologies for Enhancing Personal and Clinical Change
 
Andrea Gaggioli
added an update
Andrea Gaggioli
added a project goal
The goal of this project is to understand how virtual reality, brain-based technologies and the language of arts can support transformative experiences, that is, emotional experiences that promote deep personal change.
About this project
There are experiences in life that are able to generate profound and long-lasting shifts in core beliefs and attitudes, including subjective self-transformation [1]. These experiences have the capacity of changing not only what individuals know and value, but also how they see the world. For these characteristics, transformative experiences are gaining increasing attention not only in psychology and neuroscience, but also in philosophy. From a psychological perspective, transformative change is often associated to specific experiential states, defined “self-transcendence experiences”. These are transient mental states that allow individuals experiencing something greater of themselves, reflecting on deeper dimensions of their existence and shaping lasting spiritual beliefs. These experiences encompass several mental states, including flow, positive emotions such as awe and elevation, “peak” experiences, “mystical” experiences and mindfulness (for a review, see Yaden et al. [2]). Although the phenomenological profile of these experiential states can vary significantly in terms of quality and intensity, they are characterized by a diminished sense of self and increased feelings of connectedness to other people and one’s surroundings [2]. Previous research has shown that self-transcendent experiences are important sources of positive psychological outcomes, including increased meaning in life, positive mood and life satisfaction, positive behavior change, spiritual development and pro-social attitudes. One potentially interesting question related to self-transcendent experiences concerns whether, and to which extent, these mental states can be invited or elicited by means of interactive technologies. This question lies at the center of a new research program – Transformative Experience Design (TED) [3] – which has a two-fold aims: (i) to systematically investigate the phenomenological and neuro-cognitive aspects of self-transcendent experiences, as well as their implications for individual growth and psychological wellbeing; and (ii) to translate such knowledge into a tentative set of design principles for developing “e-experiences” that support meaning in life and personal growth.
More specifically, the TED framework has identified three possible assets that can be combined to achieve this goal. The first strategy concerns the use of advanced simulation technologies, such as virtual, augmented and mixed reality, as the elective medium to generate controlled alteration of perceptual, motor and cognitive processes.
The second asset regards the use of the language of arts to create emotionally-compelling storytelling scenarios. The third and final element of TED concerns the use of brain-based technologies, such as brain stimulation and bio/neurofeedback, to modulate neuro-physiological processes underlying self-transcendence mental states, using a closed-loop approach. The central assumption of TED is that the combination of these means provides a broad spectrum of transformative possibilities, which include, for example, “what it is like” to embody another self or another life form, simulating peculiar neurological phenomena like synesthesia or out-of-body experiences, and altering time and space perception. The safe and controlled use of these e-experiences hold the potential to facilitate self-knowledge and self-understanding, foster creative expression, develop new skills, and recognize and learn the value of others. The goal of this project is to bring together researchers interested in TED as well as to explore the theoretical and methodological challenges associated to this topic.
References
[1] Miller, W. R., & C'de Baca, J. (2001). Quantum change: When epiphanies and sudden insights transform ordinary lives. New York: Guilford Press.
[2] Yaden, D. B., Haidt, J., Hood, R. W., Jr., Vago, D. R., & Newberg, A. B. (2017). The varieties of self-transcendent experience. Review of General Psychology, 21(2), 143-160.
[3] Gaggioli, A. (2016). Transformative Experience Design. In Human Computer Confluence. Transforming Human Experience Through Symbiotic Technologies, eds A. Gaggioli, A. Ferscha, G. Riva, S. Dunne, and I. Viaud-Delmon (Berlin: De Gruyter Open), 96–121.