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Title: A comparison of virtual reality and mental imagery scenarios to promote self-compassion and reduce shame and self-criticism
Author: Holden, A. L.
ISNI:       0000 0004 8502 3112
Awarding Body: UCL (University College London)
Current Institution: University College London (University of London)
Date of Award: 2015
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Aims: This study aimed to establish whether an immersive virtual reality (VR) compassionate scenario is any more effective at nurturing self-compassion and positively influencing state levels of shame, self-criticism and mood compared to a mental imagery (MI) comparison in healthy individuals with high levels of self-criticism. This study also investigated whether state self-compassion, self-criticism and shame undergo any further change following two weeks of independent mental imagery practice based on the experimental scenario. Method: Forty participants who met the inclusion criteria were randomly allocated to either a one-off VR or MI experimental session. State measures of self-compassion, self-criticism, shame and mood were administered pre, post-intervention and at two-week follow-up following daily mental imagery practice based on the experimental compassionate scenario. Results: Both conditions had a small to medium positive effect on state levels of self-compassion and shame and a large effect on self-criticism post-intervention, which was maintained at follow-up. No main effect of condition across any of the dependent variables was found however. In addition, the prediction that frequency of mental imagery rehearsal, ease of recall, and vividness of the mental imagery would be related to the amount of change in levels of self-compassion, shame and self-criticism was also not supported by the data. Conclusion: This study found that a novel immersive VR scenario designed to nurture compassion and an MI control condition both demonstrated short-term therapeutic benefits in healthy individuals with high average levels of self-criticism. However, the overall results indicate that the use of VR technology to enable participants to directly experience both giving and receiving compassion from the self, affords no extra benefit over a guided MI analogue. Further research is therefore warranted in clinical populations.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available