Designing a VR Experience to Reduce the Experience of Pain: Scare, Excite or Relax?

  • Erik D. van der SpekEmail author
  • Luuk P. M. Roelofs
Conference paper
Part of the Lecture Notes in Computer Science book series (LNCS, volume 11863)


Ever since Snow World, there has been a proliferation of Virtual Reality (VR) for pain alleviation in clinical settings. VR provides a relatively low-cost and side-effects free way to distract patients from acute pain. Numerous studies have shown the feasibility of using VR to reduce pain compared with control conditions, however very little research has been done on how the VR experience itself should be designed to optimally distract a user’s attention away from the pain. Here, we used the circumplex model of affect as an input to design three affective, wireless, passive VR experiences, viz. a tense experience (horror), an exciting experience (parachuting) and a relaxing experience (nature-walk). In a counterbalanced within-subjects experiment, 14 participants underwent a cold pressor test through three experimental and one control conditions. There was a significant effect of condition, with participants in the tense (horror) condition being able to withstand pain for longer. This may also be due to the anticipation inherent in horror experiences however.


Virtual Reality Pain reduction Affective VR Game design 


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© IFIP International Federation for Information Processing 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Industrial DesignEindhoven University of TechnologyEindhovenThe Netherlands

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