Darya Belova, Department of Software Engineering and Computer Systems ITMO University, St. Petersburg, Russia, email@example.com
Abstract — This paper contains information about the development of a virtual reality application which will be used in psychocorrection procedures. The model focused on the individual characteristics of each of the four psychotypes was chosen to influence users’ functional states. The method combining “ﬂood” and biological feedback is used in order to get the eﬀect of complete immersion and uninterrupted tracking of psychophysiological indicators during the simulation. The first stage of experiments was completed. The results confirmed correct work of the application.
Keywords: virtual reality, application, immersion, psychotype, temperament, psychocorrection, psychocorrection methods
© The Authors, published by CULTURAL-EDUCATIONAL CENTER, LLC, 2020
This work is licensed under Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International
Virtual reality (VR) technologies allow to simulate whether animate or inanimate objects. In so doing, models have the same properties (or behavior, when it comes to animate objects) which are inherent in their real prototypes . The user can interact with the VR, including moving in VR scenes, manipulating objects and changing a viewing angle by turning their heads. It allows the user to completely immerse in created virtual worlds, which is taken as “almost real” . Therefore, VR technologies can be used to influence the human psyche in order to correct its state.
Thus, there is a distraction of the user from the surrounding world and a strong impact on the brain activity, which allows to affect his psychophysiological state directly. This explains the relevance of this work. Since virtual reality provides a sufficiently high level of immersion, such a method can be considered more effective than listening to music or reading books to relax or doing exercises just to cheer up.
II. Project description
A. Goals and Objectives
The object of this work is virtual reality technologies and their use in psychocorrection procedures.
The aim of the work is to develop a virtual reality application for psychotherapy based on psychotypes. To achieve the goal, it is necessary to fulfill the following tasks:
• Study all characteristics of personality types and methods of psychological correction.
• Develop the algorithm of methods of psychocorrection and form application scenario.
• Create content and functional requirements.
• Choose the implementation technologies.
• Design the application.
• Implement scenes.
• Configure, build and test the application.
• Conduct the research on whether the methods used in the application can stabilize people with different personality types.
• Collect data on the state of the test subjects when working with the application and conduct analysis of the results.
The concept of the project is as follows:
• The psychotype (temperament) of the subject is determined.
• The readings of the normal state of the person are taken till running the script application.
• The person can do monotonous or hard work.
• The readings of the person state after a monotonous or hard work are taken till running the script application.
• The scene with the algorithm of actions developed in advance for a concrete type is applied.
• After working with the application, the readings are taken again.
• Results are compared.
• The output is the result whether the person has passed the stabilization successfully.
B. Literature Review
Today more than 70% of Russians are constantly under stress or chronic fatigue, and a third of the entire population is under severe stress . As a result, 80% of people in Russia suffer from chronic fatigue syndrome: they quickly get tired, feel weak in the morning, they may suffer from frequent headaches, conflict, insomnia, etc. In the United States 90% of the population are constantly under severe stress. About 70% of doctor’s appointments are associated with symptoms based on psychophysiological disorders . Approximately 30% of working countries in the European Union suffer from various destabilizing states.
Everyone reacts in their own way to changes in the functional state. For example, from a physical point of view the person may be prone to insomnia, have high blood pressure, experience constant hunger or loss of appetite, chronic fatigue, etc.; from mental point of view — worry for no apparent reason, to focus, to feel alone, etc.; from behavioral point of view — abuse of alcohol, drugs (sedatives), lose interest in their appearance, etc. Due to the reactions of people, mental disorders of the employed affect their performance — the loss of productivity costs about 467 billion US dollars, and medical expenses amount to 2.5 trillion US dollars worldwide.
For the treatment of phobias, panic and anxiety disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorders, as well as various forms of destabilization of the psycho-emotional state, it is possible to use telemedicine, including VR technologies. It can stabilize the state of more people and improve the quality of life for society. Moreover, using VR allows to reduce the cost of medical services among the world’s population and to reduce losses in the economic sphere.
To date, there are VR applications and techniques that are aimed mainly at fighting various phobias and mental disorders (exposure therapy) and reducing stress (relaxation) .
Exposure therapy is most widely used as an alternative form of influence on a person, where they interact with safe virtual representations of traumatic stimuli in order to get rid of fear. For example, the offices of the Virtual Reality Medical Center (VRMC) in California specialize in treating patients with anxiety disorders, training both military and civilian populations, and expanding various educational programs .
Exposure therapy is practiced not only by specialized centers and institutes, but also by educational institutions such as the University of Southern California (USC), where the “Virtual Iraq/Afghanistan” environment was developed . This project involves the use of not only visualization, but also vibrations and odors. Thus, by gradually returning users to the experiences that caused the injury in a controlled VR environment, the body remembers reactions in a safe environment. Thus, the stimuli become less intrusive in everyday life and more tolerant over time.
The second most common use of VR technologies in psychotherapy is relaxation . In this area applications are developed to help stabilize the state after experiencing psycho-emotional tension or stress. Such products are brought to the market, where ordinary users can purchase applications for non-clinical (independent) treatment. For example, an application “Guided Meditation VR” has been developed for HTC Vive, Samsung Gear VR and Oculus Rift. It allows the user to choose a soothing virtual environment. There is also an iPhone application “Relax VR” that allows the user to enjoy a wide range of calming visual and audio accompaniments.
Thus, the study of virtual reality has shown that these technologies can be effectively used in the health sector, including psychocorrection. However, all the solutions do not assume an approach based on the human psychotype, and no application has been aimed at correcting monotony yet. In this regard, it can be concluded that there are no exact analogues of the developed product.
C. Resarch Methods
This project assumes the use of the following research methods:
• Literature review: collecting literature and other sources of information on topics of virtual reality and psychotherapy.
• Analysis of the research field: VR technology, ways of its implementation and interaction with it, features of perception of virtual reality, especially the visual perception of the virtual reality, as well as the scope of its application, methods of providing sufficient levels of immersion.
•Generalization of the formed theoretical basis for hypotheses about correction methods based on psychotypes and the subsequent practical implementation.
• Conducting experiments: working with the application after the simulation of states of monotony and tension. Before running the experiment, potential users will be tested to determine their psychotype (temperament).
• Collection and analysis of data on the status of the subjects after a monotonous or strenuous works.
• Testing hypotheses about the impact of VR scenes by creating and running them by subjects with different personality types.
• Testing the application.
• Comparison of the obtained values with previous ones.
• Making necessary changes to the application in case of detection of technical issues or problems with contents.
III. Application Development
To develop a VR application for psychocorrection based on personality types it is necessary to understand what psychocorrection is and what models and method should be used .
Psychocorrection is a set of measures carried out with special tools of psychological influence in order to correct the shortcomings of behavior or psycho-emotional state of a person .
Psychocorrection procedures are aimed at shortcomings that do not have an organic basis and are not stable qualities that are formed early enough and practically do not change in the future.
In practice, the following models of psychocorrection are distinguished :
• A general model that involves deepening and clarifying a person’s understanding of the world, using various activities to develop perception, etc.
• A typical model based on mastering the various components of actions and gradually forming these actions.
• An individual model that includes determining the individual characteristics of the mental development of persons, identifying leading activities, etc.
A model used is closest to an individual one. Application scenarios are developed for specific psychotypes, considering their characteristics, and are aimed not at presenting the surrounding reality to a person and not at training typical behaviors, but at correcting psycho-emotional states.
Today there are a huge number of various methods used in psychocorrection procedures, including game therapy, art therapy and behavioral correction methods.
Back in 1958, the Austrian psychotherapist D. Volpe presented the theory of reciprocal inhibition, which referred to the inhibition of anxiety reactions by simultaneously causing other reactions that are antagonistic to anxiety from the point of view of physiology (not compatible with it). When the opposite reactions occur simultaneously, the conditional connection between the impulse that caused the alarm and the alarm weakens. For example, self-affirmation reactions, food intake or a state of relaxation can trigger a person’s necessary response to eliminate anxiety or tension .
This concept can also be used to correct such psycho-emotional states as monotony and tension. To eliminate each of them, an impact, which can cause a reaction that is the opposite of what is observed at a given time, is carried out.
Behavioral correction methods include a group of immersion methods. These methods are based on a direct representation of objects of fear without prior relaxation. The basis of such methods is the mechanism of extinction, which was discovered by I. Pavlov. According to this mechanism, the presentation of a conditioned stimulus without reinforcement by an unconditioned one leads to the disappearance of a conditioned response.
Immersion methods include “flood”, implosion, and paradoxical intent .
The method of flooding assumes that persons find themselves in a real situation that causes negative emotions (fear, anxiety, tension, etc.). They stay in it for as long as possible in order to make sure that there are no possible negative consequences .
Implosion is a technique of “flood” in the imagination. A person only needs to imagine a situation that causes a destabilizing state. The level of involvement and intensity of the state is assessed by behavior (motor activity, muscle tension, facial expressions, vegetative reactions, etc.). The main task is to maintain a sufficiently high level of this state. The imagination here can be limitless.
Paradoxical intention is a method of immersion, in which by ridiculing the situation it is necessary to suppress states which occur before the impact that can cause it.
A method like the “flood” method is used in application development since the application will be able to simulate a real situation. However, this scenario is not aimed at strengthening negative emotions and on the contrary — it is formed in such a way as to enhance the effect of relaxation and wakefulness with psycho-emotional tension and monotony, respectively.
A method based on the principle of biofeedback is also used in this work.
Under normal conditions, a person does not receive accurate quantitative information about the state of physiological functions, such as blood pressure or pulse rate. Biofeedback methods allow to regulate even subtle changes in physiological processes and make it possible to learn the skills of conscious regulation of physiological processes. It enables an individual to acquire some control over autonomous biological activity. The principle on which biofeedback is based requires the active participation of a person in changing his condition .
Information about persons’ biological activities is collected, processed and sent back to them, so that they can change this activity. It creates a “feedback loop” that is involved in the regulation of many functions of the human body (from changes in the rate of the most elementary biochemical reactions to extremely complex human activities). The presence of information about the result of an event is necessary in order to change it in any (but not random) way.
Thus, during development, a method that combines the “flood” method and the biofeedback method and psychocorrection models created for specific psychotypes are used.
C. Project Implementation
In order to correctly develop scenes in a virtual reality application, it is necessary to study existing psychotypes and generalize the information obtained to form a descriptive characteristic for each type.
In this work the psychotype includes the types of Higher Nervous Activity proposed by I. Pavlov , and the types of personality presented by L. Sobchik . Thus, potential users can be divided into coordinating, stimulating, assisting and controlling types. Table 1 shows a brief version of the result.
Based on the obtained data on psychotypes, scenarios were formulated for all of them:
• Melancholic (assisting type). To correct monotony, a simulation of a basketball game and tasks for verbal thinking are used. For correction of psycho-emotional tension summer landscape with the use of calm background music is used.
• Sanguine (stimulating type). To correct monotony, a simulation of the game “Gorodki” and tasks for figurative thinking are used. For correction of psycho-emotional tension spring landscape with the use of calm background music is used.
• Choleric (coordinating type). To correct the monotony, a simulation game, where users need to beat moving at an increasing speed cubes from different sides, is used. For correction of psycho-emotional tension a winter landscape and a simulation of a parachute jump against the background of music with a gradually slowing rhythm is used.
• Phlegmatic (controlling type). To correct the monotony, a simulation of escaping from the room and tasks for logical thinking are used. For correction of psycho-emotional tension autumn landscape with a built-in route for moving around the location with quiet background music is used.
Table 1. Scenarios for Psychotypes
|Psychotypes||Monotony correction||Tension correction|
|Melancholic||Verbal thinking||Most comfortable time of the year is summer.|
|Sanguine||Figurative thinking||The most related season is spring.|
|Choleric||Eye-mindedness||Any time of the year is comfortable.|
|Phlegmatic||Formal-logical thinking||Autumn and summer are the best seasons.|
Based on these hypotheses, eight scenes were developed: one half refers to the correction of monotony, and the second — to correct psycho-emotional tension for each of the four psychotypes.
Scenes designed to correct monotony have a timer (10 minutes by default). It plays the role of a stimulating factor. Some scenes have a panel for displaying correct answers (the number of correctly solved tasks). It can also affect the user’s behavior as a motivating factor (see Fig. 1).
In the scenes for relaxation (for correction of psycho-emotional tension) the principle of transition from strong to weak effects, that means: the simulation is first approximated to the degree of excitation, which is observed from the user, and then the scene replayed animation, motion, music, slow down (see Fig. 2).
Thus, it turns out that in the simulation the user copes with the tension, as in real life, i. e. by slowing down the process of excitation over time.
Figure 1. A model for monotony correction.
Figure 2. A model for psycho-emotional tension correction.
IV. Experiments and Results
After the application was successfully built and tested, the first experimental research was conducted. Experiments involve checking whether the application is working correctly.
A. Experimental Research
First, a user’s psychotype is determined. After passing this step, their initial functional state is determined. For this purpose, the device of psychophysiological testing “Psychophysiologist” is used. Only then a person can start performing the task. The user will work with the app to correct monotony or emotional tension. After this, the functional state is determined again. If the correction is successful, the condition will improve: if the user was tense, the state should become close to relaxed, and if they were initially relaxed, their state will become more tense.
Thus, all experiments are conducted in several stages:
• Determining the user’s personality type.
• Modeling monotonous or stressful activities.
• Recording indicators after passing the simulation with the device of psychophysiological testing “Psychophysiologist”.
• Passing application scripts for correction of monotony or psycho-emotional tension.
• Recording indicators after passing the application scenario using the device “Psychophysiologist”.
The Expert system of complex personality analysis (ESCAL) is used as a tool for determining a person’s psychotype . The system is an online resource with access to a personal account. Testing takes 10 minutes. Results are processed automatically, so that the report can be obtained immediately. Thus, this system allows users to get an analysis of a person’s temperament quickly and efficiently. The instructor receives a report on test results, which displays both the current state and the goal state.
Next, a monotonous or stressful activity is modeled. Modeling tension was performed as follows: some participants came right after their exams, and others worked with virtual safety simulator.
Modeling monotony was performed as follows: the task was given to edit texts, participants had to edit 20–30 images according to a template and add them to the document.
Then individuals pass a test for recording physiological indicators.
The method of variational cardiointervalometry lasting 128 cardio cycles was chosen for this . It is used to assess the functional state of the autonomic nervous system (ANS) of individuals according to the parameters of the rhythm of their heart activity, as well as to assess the overall functional state of a person.
To do this, the heart rate variability (HRV) is determined. HRV is the variability in the duration of RR intervals of consecutive heart cycles over certain periods of time and the severity of heart rate fluctuations in relation to its average level .
At the beginning, the user is instructed about the upcoming study. Then they should put both hands on removable plate electrodes on the side surfaces of the psychophysiological testing device. When they hold this device with both hands, conditions are created for recording the electrocardiographic signal.
The low quality of the ECG signal during testing may be caused by the low amplitude of the QRS complex due to the specific orientation of the electrical axis of the heart, high level of muscle tension, high level of network leads due to the proximity of electrical equipment with strong electromagnetic radiation .
After the signal level is adjusted to the optimal level, the signal is recorded, and results are saved on the device. These data are presented as indicators of the user’s initial state.
A user’s functional state is determined by several indicators. Table 2 shows some of them.
There are the following levels of functional state :
• Level 1 means the low level of sensorimotor reactions.
• Level 2 assumes that the level of sensorimotor reactions is below average.
• Level 3 means the average level of sensorimotor reactions.
• Level 4 assumes that the level of sensorimotor reactions and the level of accurateness are above average values.
• Level 5 means the high level of sensorimotor reactions, with high speed and stability of responses.
Table 2. Functional State Determination
|Levels of functional state in terms of heart rate variability||Critical|
|Close to optimal|
|Heart rate levels||Sinus bradycardia|
|Normal (heart rate below average)|
|Normal (heart rate above average)|
|Levels of heart rate variability||Observed arrhythmia|
|An optimal rhythm|
|Types of the dominating regulation circuit||Balanced influence of the parasympathetic and sympathetic parts of the nervous system, autonomous and central regulation circuits.|
|The predominance of the autonomous regulation circuit.|
|The predominance of the central regulation circuit.|
B. Main Results
The first stage of experimental research was conducted. A test group of 30 people aged 20–25 years was assembled. Table 3 shows current types of personality of participants in experiments. Table 4 shows psychotypes which participants can get in the future.
During determining individuals’ psychotypes both current and goal states were recorded. This was done in order to be able to test scenes for all four personality types.
Within the framework of this project there was no one with an actual coordinating type among the participants in the first stage of experiments. Nevertheless, there were those who are going to get this psychotype. These people were the ones who went through the application script prepared for choleric.
According to the results, functional states of participants with a facilitator psychotype changed more and functional states of participants with a controlling personality type — less in comparison with others. This confirms the theory that melancholics are highly sensitive and respond better to external influences, while phlegmatics, on the contrary, have a high threshold of sensitivity and are quite rigid. Table 5 summarizes the results of the experiments.
Table 3. Types of Personality (Current States)
|Psychotypes(the current state)||Number of men||Number of women|
Table 4. Types of Personality (Goal States)
|Psychotypes(the goal state)||Number of men||Number of women|
Table 5. Results of Experiment Participants
In Table 5 numbers in brackets means the following:
• (1) — The total number of experiments.
• (2) — The number of studies on the correction of tension.
• (3) — The number of studies on the correction of monotony.
• (4) — The number of experiments where the level of functional state changed.
• (5) — The number of experiments where the indicators changed at the same level of functional state.
Each group member received a standard instruction on working with the device “Psychophysiologist” and the virtual reality system and passing application scenarios.
Indicators were collected before and after working with the application using the device “Psychophysiologist”. Participants were interviewed to assess the usability of the application and the presence or absence of flaws in the developed product. No errors were detected.
During the research, it was found that the timing of experiments differed from each other. This is because not everyone is familiar with the principles of VR systems. Moreover, when working with the application the novelty factor partially affected the functional state. Therefore, when passing scenarios (especially for correcting monotony), the user’s state could become close to stressful.
However, the results confirm that:
• The application has a sufficient level of immersion, so that the virtual environment is perceived as “almost real” and evokes a reaction from the user.
• Scenarios are designed correctly and affect the functional state of users.
C. Areas of Protentional Use
The study of Global Virtual Reality Association identified three main groups of potential consumers in the market of VR technology :
• Ordinary users who currently use VR systems mainly for entertainment, but there is a growing interest in applications in such fields as health, commerce and education areas.
• Representatives of government agencies that are showing increasing interest in VR simulators, as well as in applications that can contribute to attracting the attention of tourists to countries and their regions.
• Representatives of business, who expect to improve the production process with the help of VR technologies, to provide a new type of service or means for communication with consumers.
All these groups can be interested in the developed application because all can use it in their own ways: for personal needs, for the purpose of psychocorrection of patients and employees.
A full description of the application development was presented, including formulated hypotheses describing scenarios for correcting monotony and psycho-emotional tension.
Tasks for verbal, figurative, formal-logical thinking and eye-mindedness are used to correct monotony, and the most comfortable environment (summer, spring, autumn and winter) is simulated to correct tension for the melancholic, sanguine, phlegmatic and choleric, respectively
The scenes are built considering that first it is necessary to bring the volume of background music and the speed of movement — the degree of impact — to the level of excitement. And as the simulation progresses, the factors that form the simulation should be reduced to correct functional states.
Experimental studies of the product and the results of experimental studies were described. More than 50% of the experiments were related to the correction of psycho-emotional tension. This is because the research was conducted during the session, which means that most participants experienced stress.
As a result of passing scenarios for correcting psycho-emotional tension, 63.3% of users changed their functional state from acceptable/tense to relaxed/optimal, and as a result of passing scenarios for correcting monotony — vice versa.
For the same level of functional status (36.7% of users) changes were observed in the degree of tension and relaxation and changes in indicators: heart rate was decreased/increased, values of the capacity of slow waves were increased/decreased, and there was also a predominance of ergotropic/trophotropic function, the power of central/autonomous regulation was increased, etc.
In the future, it is planned to conduct the second stage of experiments, including passing the “Health, activity, mood” test and the Luscher color test for measuring the psychophysiological state and stress resistance of users. There was no one with an actual coordinating personality type among the participants in the first stage of experiments. There were those who demonstrated a desire for this type. Therefore, the sample will be increased, and additional studies will be conducted.
This research was supported by ITMO University. The author thanks A. Bilyi for assistance with the development and for comments that greatly improved the paper.
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