Designing a VR experience to reduce the experience of pain: scare, excite or relax?

Erik D. van der Spek, Luuk P.M. Roelofs

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contributionAcademicpeer-review


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.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationEntertainment Computing and Serious Games - 1st IFIP TC 14 Joint International Conference, ICEC-JCSG 2019, Proceedings
EditorsErik van der Spek, Stefan Göbel, Ellen Yi-Luen Do, Esteban Clua, Jannicke Baalsrud Hauge
Place of PublicationCham
Number of pages14
ISBN (Electronic)978-3-030-34644-7
ISBN (Print)978-3-030-34643-0
Publication statusPublished - 2019
Event1st IFIP TC 14 Joint International Conference, (ICEC-JCSG 2019) - Arequipa, Peru
Duration: 11 Nov 201915 Nov 2019


Conference1st IFIP TC 14 Joint International Conference, (ICEC-JCSG 2019)


  • Affective VR
  • Game design
  • Pain reduction
  • Virtual Reality


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