A new virtual reality study finds that 40% of the general population experienced paranoid thoughts during a tube ride. Dr Daniel Freeman at the Institute of Psychiatry in London and colleagues explain that while paranoid thoughts are popularly associated with mental illness, they are actually a normal part of everyday life for many of us.
In the study, which took place a year after the London tube bombings, 200 participants navigated a virtual reality simulation of a 4 minute journey on the London Underground. Avatars within the simulation were designed to react neutrally to participants moving through the simulation. Despite this, more than a third reported paranoid reactions like the following:
- ‘There was an aggressive person – his intention was to intimidate me and make me feel uneasy’
- ‘One guy looked pissed off and maybe one guy flicked the finger at me’
- ‘There was a man who tried to stare me out. But I didn’t give him any ammunition. Believe his intention was to start an argument’
Compare these to how other people experienced the simulation:
- ‘People were generally very friendly’
- ‘One guy was checking me out – flattering’
- ‘There were people smiling at you, which was nice’
This just underlines how people can experience exactly the same environment in completely different ways.
There’s a very good video on the Wellcome website with Dr Daniel Freeman explaining more about the study, how it was conducted and showing clips of the virtual reality environment.
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How the Mind Reveals Itself in Everyday Activities
→ This post is part of a series on how the mind reveals itself in everyday activities:
- Why Familiarity Really Does Breed Contempt
- Do You Challenge Queue-Jumpers and Line-Cutters?
- Weather Has Little Effect on Mood
- Superstitious? Why Even Rational People Hate to Tempt Fate
- Ask For Help: Why People Are Twice as Likely to Assist as You Think
- Would You Ask Someone to Pick up Their Dog’s Poop?
- Friendships Can Depend on Who You Meet First
- Mondays Are Not As Depressing As You Think
- 40% Experienced Paranoid Thoughts on Virtual Journey
- The Over-Interpretation of Dreams
- Does The Weather Affect Your Mood?
- How Much Do You ‘Zone Out’ While Reading?