Thursday, December 16, 2004

Press Start and Tune Out

We've all done it. Tuning out of reality while engrossed in a book or a tv show or a video game. There may be some advantage to that. A study has shown that kids allowed to play Game Boy immediately prior to surgical anesthesia experienced less anxiety prior to surgery than those who received tranquilizers or the comfort of a parent.

It reminded me of an article in Scientific American that reported on the effectiveness of virtual reality in theraputic settings. The article described some of the well known applications of VR in treating phobias. The instance I am more interested in is its use as an escape from sensation. Precisely, it was a study of children's experience of pain as they underwent cleanings of severe burn injuries. The process is normally incredibly painful, but subjects reported far less pain when they immersed themselves in an virtual environment where they had snowball fights with snowmen. In general, the more immersive (3D vs. flat screen, playing with friends and family vs. solo) the greater the pain dulling effect. I also think that the cold theme also helped them to separate from the sensations resulting from a hot connotation.

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