Modelling the Induction of Social Stress in Immersive Virtual rEatity Simulations


Social anxiety is a global problem with significant personal and societal costs. Virtual reality makes it possible to consider new treatment alternatives, in particular for exposure therapy: a practitioner can gradually confront patients with the situations that are problematic to them. In this context, it is important to afford fine control over the stress experienced by the patient in these virtual situations. However, the parameters - and their interactions - influencing the amount and nature of the stress experienced in these interactions are still poorly understood.


Certain social situations, such as public speaking or job interviews, can cause considerable stress and anxiety. In this context, virtual reality simulations are a promising solution to train emotion regulation. However, while virtual social interactions have been shown to cause significant, measurable stress, the influence of the variables controlling this effect is still not fully understood. In the MISSIVES project, we are studying the processes that underlie the induction of social stress in virtual social interactions. The main objective of the project is to establish a model describing the respective influence of the parameters of virtual social interactions - realism, behavior, task,… - on the stress responses of users. Such a model will, for example, allow the prediction and evaluation of stress from multimodal signals (physiology, behavior) in order to create compelling psychotherapy applications.


Objective of the project

MISSIVES proposed to study the processes underlying the induction of stress in virtual social interactions. Our main objective is to establish a model describing the respective influence of the parameters of virtual social interactions on the psychosocial stress responses of users. This will make it possible to take full advantage of the capabilities of new virtual reality psychotherapy applications and to envision effective new treatment approaches.


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Expected outcomes

The results of the MISSIVES project should bring important benefits for the creation of different categories of applications. In particular, in the context of exposure therapy, the models created in MISSIVES will make it possible to evaluate and anticipate the stress responses of patients in reaction to specific stimuli and simulated situations, crucial information for the therapist; in addition, they will improve the degree of control over the amount of stress induced in the participants of a particular exposure session, which could lead to more effective exposure therapy methodologies. More generally, the real-time prediction and evaluation of the degree of stress of a virtual reality user will allow the creation of adaptive applications, for example to train social skills, or to create new experimental frameworks to study stress in a controlled manner.


IMT Atlantique Role

The MISSIVES project is funded by the ANR as part of the JCJC program - IMT Atlantique and the LS2N are thus the only actors in this project.

Contact : CHOLLET Mathieu