W. Todd Maddox, a psychologist and contributing analyst at Amalgam Insights, has an interesting proposition. He thinks that virtual reality could greatly improve sexual harassment training.
In a blog post, he pointed out that "traditional computer-based approaches do their best to define, describe and demonstrate sexual harassment behavior" by targeting the cognitive skills learning system in the brain," which he says is fine for "hard skill training, but not soft skill training, such as the training needed to reduce the incidence sexual harassment."
It's all about creating empathy he said in an interview, making it a lot easier for you to understand what a victim is going through. The effect, he blogged, is at a "visceral level"
"There is no better way for a middle-aged, Caucasian male to “feel” the prejudice or sexual harassment that a young, female African-American might experience or to “feel” the discrimination that many members of the LGBT community feel, than to put that man in a first-person VR environment where they are that other individual."
It's an interesting theory that's worthy of testing. I've never taken a VR training course, but I have experienced the emotional impact that VR can elicit. One of my first experiences with Oculus Rift was standing at the edge of a tall building and being afraid to step forward even though my rational brain knew I was in a room and there was no danger of falling. But my emotional brain told me that I was in danger, so I held back. Could one "feel" what it's like to be in the shoes of a sexual harassment victim by experiencing it virtually? I don't know, but I think it's worth exploring.
Maddox pointed out that there is a limit as to what VR or any other sexual harassment training can accomplish. "In many cases, the individual is fully aware of their behavior and simply does not care. In such cases, no training, whether computer-based or VR, will likely have any effect. These are situations involving a conscious bias and behavioral change may be difficult. It is the cases of unconscious bias, where the individual is less aware of the impact of their behavior, that there is hope."
Listen to interview with W. Todd Maddox via YouTube