Washington D.C. [USA]: People usually seek a friend's advice whenever in doubt. But how about solving your problems on your own?
In a new study, researchers found that using virtual reality, people can talk to selves as if they were another person and thus, solve their issues.
Findings of the study published in the journal 'Scientific Reports' show that talking to self works better to improve people's mood, compared to just talking about your problems in a virtual conversation with pre-scripted comments.
"We showed earlier that it is possible for people to talk to themselves as if they were another person, body-swapping to two different avatars, and that participants' mood and happiness improved," said Mel Slater, lead author of the study performed by teams of University of Barcelona (UB), IDIBAPS and Virtual BodyWorks.
In order to test this body-swapping idea, researchers compared one group who talked to themselves first and then body-swapping to a virtual Sigmund Freud; and another (control) group who spoke to the virtual Freud, but in that case, Freud responded with pre-scripted questions and comments (there was no body-swapping).
Researchers then scanned the person to obtain an 'avatar' which is a 3D-likeness of the person.
The participant can explain their personal problem to Dr Freud, and then switch to being embodied as Freud.
Now, embodied as Freud, when they look towards themselves, or in a mirror, they will see Freud's body rather than their own, and also this body will move in synchrony with their own movements.
"They will see and hear their own likeness explaining the problem, and they see their virtual self as if this were another person. Now they themselves have become the 'friend' who is listening and trying to help," said Slater.
While embodied as Freud, and after perceiving a strong likeness of themselves describing a problem, they can respond, as Freud, back to themselves and ask a question or help the person in front (themselves) to find a solution.
They can keep switching back and forth between the two bodies, so having a conversation: in reality, it is with themselves, but it appears as if it is between two different people.
One week after the completion of the experiment more than 80 per cent of participants reported a change with respect to their problem, compared to less than 50 per cent in the control group.
"We found that those in the body-swapping group got better knowledge, understanding, control, and new ideas about their problem compared to the control group (no body-swapping)," explained Slater.