Empathy and prosocial development
Empathy is the ability to take another person’s perspective and experience the world as they experience it. Most of us are born with an innate tendency for empathy, but even naturally sensitive, emotionally perceptive people can have trouble extending it beyond the circle of their immediate ingroup – a problem in an increasingly globalised world.
VR can help, allowing us to almost literally see the world through another person’s eyes. In one experiment, a group of researchers had white subjects inhabit a black avatar in VR, leading to decreased measures of implicit racial bias. In another, students who inhabited a superheroic virtual avatar showed an increased tendency to help experimenters pick up their "dropped" pens later on. Whether either of these effects persist in the longterm is an open question.