University of Oulu

Empathic experiences of colour vision defiency in virtual reality

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Author: Harju, Santeri1; Klemettilä, Lauri1
Organizations: 1University of Oulu, Faculty of Information Technology and Electrical Engineering, Department of Computer Science and Engineering, Computer Science
Format: ebook
Version: published version
Access: open
Online Access: PDF Full Text (PDF, 19.7 MB)
Pages: 26
Persistent link:
Language: English
Published: Oulu : S. Harju; L. Klemettilä, 2022
Publish Date: 2022-06-27
Thesis type: Bachelor's thesis
Tutor: Georgiev, Georgi


In this thesis we explore Virtual Reality (VR) experiences and examine their capability of promoting empathy in the user. VR provides the unique prospect of simulating immersive first-hand experiences of things that may be difficult to experience otherwise. Color blindness, or more appropriately color vision deficiency (CVD), is well-known as a term but is generally poorly understood as a condition. We conducted an experiment where the empathy of 20 participants was measured before and after being exposed to a CVD-simulating VR experience.

A dedicated virtual reality environment was designed and implemented for the CVD simulation. A head-mounted display (HMD) and two VR controllers were used to allow the participant to observe and interact with the VR environment. Participants were tasked with performing a color-based sorting task in the VR environment. After initial exposure to a normal color scheme in the virtual environment, the participants had to perform the same task in the same VR environment, but the color scheme of the environment was altered to simulate CVD.

Two types of empathy, cognitive empathy (CE) and emotional/affective empathy (EE), were measured using the questionnaire Affective and Cognitive Measure of Empathy (ACME). In addition, the participants performed an idea-generation task where they had to suggest ideas of challenges that people affected by CVD may face in their everyday lives. Both of these task were performed twice; before and after the VR experience. The mental and physical workload experienced by the participant during the VR experience was measured after the experience with the NASA Task Load Index (TLX).

The results of the study are mostly inconclusive. The data from the empathy questionnaires show no statistically meaningful changes in empathy, but a clear improvement was found in the quality of answers in the idea-generation task. Additionally, a positive linear correlation between emotional empathy and mental demand experienced during the sorting task was found.

Further studies into empathetic experiences of CVD in VR may provide deeper insights on the issue by providing more extensive experiences of the condition, and through this, better understanding of how cognitive and emotional empathy could be generated using VR.

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Copyright information: © Santeri Harju; Lauri Klemettilä, 2022. Except otherwise noted, the reuse of this document is authorised under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC-BY 4.0) licence ( This means that reuse is allowed provided appropriate credit is given and any changes are indicated. For any use or reproduction of elements that are not owned by the author(s), permission may need to be directly from the respective right holders.