Experiencing Herd Immunity in Virtual Reality Increases COVID‑19 Vaccination Intention


This study investigates the impact of an immersive virtual reality (VR) simulation of herd immunity on vaccination intentions and its potential underlying mechanisms. In this preregistered field study, N = 654 participants were randomly assigned to one of the three VR conditions: (1) Gamified Herd Immunity; (2) Gamified Herd Immunity + Empathy (with additional narrative elements); (3) Control (gamified with no vaccination-related content). In the Gamified Herd Immunity simulation, participants embodied a vulnerable person and navigated a wedding venue trying to avoid getting infected. A total of 455 participants with below maximum intentions to take a novel vaccine and without severe cybersickness were analyzed. The Gamified Herd Immunity + Empathy and the Gamified Herd Immunity conditions increased vaccination intentions by 6.68 and 7.06 points on a 0–100 scale, respectively, compared to 1.91 for the Control condition. The Gamified Herd Immunity + Empathy condition enhanced empathy significantly more than the Gamified Herd Immunity condition but did not result in higher vaccination intentions. Experienced presence was related to the change in vaccination intentions. The results suggest that VR vaccination communication can effectively increase vaccination intentions; the effect is not solely due to the technological novelty and does not depend on empathy.

In Computers in Human Behavior
Tiffany Luong
Tiffany Luong

My research is focused on studying user experience using objective indicators (e.g., physiological signals) in VR to understand human cognition and improve human-computer interaction.