Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository

Thesis Format



Master of Science




Minda, John Paul


Mood induction procedures (MIPs) are commonly used by researchers who seek to examine affective states and their effects on other outcomes of interest. Despite their popularity, MIPs do not generate the same type of intense and influential emotions that are caused by life events, creating an empirical gap between naturalistic and experimentally manipulated emotion. Researchers have begun exploring the use of virtual reality (VR) to address these flaws, as its engaging and immersive nature could confer higher ecological validity for laboratory-induced emotions. This study compared the effectiveness of fear-elicitation via a VR cinema MIP to that of a standard film clip MIP. The results of a regression analysis found that VR-induced fear was significantly more intense and more longer lasting than non-VR-induced fear, though only when compared against control. However, neither MIP generated fear lasting longer than four minutes post-MIP. This has major implications for researchers who hope to investigate the effect of mood on tasks which outlast the duration of a mood induction. Future research should continue to assess and improve the effectiveness of existing MIPs.

Summary for Lay Audience

Emotions form an integral part of daily human experience, influencing how we think and act. Psychological researchers have long been interested in studying the influences of emotional states on various aspects of the psyche. To study a particular emotion or its effects, most researchers will ask participants to undergo a Mood Induction Procedure (MIP) that puts them in a desired emotional state, after which they are asked to complete other tasks or measures. Typically, MIPs are administered in a laboratory wherein the researcher presents participants with media such as music, pictures, or movies to influence their moods. These methods, while convenient, often fail to influence emotions to the same degree that emotionally relevant events in a real-life setting do, limiting scientific investigation of “real” emotions and their downstream effects. To overcome this, researchers have more recently begun to explore the use of simulated virtual reality (VR) environments to better engage participants’ emotions. It is proposed that immersing participants in an environment where they can see, hear, and act the way they would in real life, could also be beneficial for generating emotional experiences more comparable to those which occur in natural settings.

The current study compared the intensity and longevity of fear induced by a standard film-clip MIP to that induced by a VR cinema MIP. Participants in the study were assigned to experience either the VR MIP, non-VR MIP, or no MIP (control), after which they rated their levels of fear every two minutes for ten minutes. The results found that participants in the VR MIP condition experienced more intense feelings of fear post-MIP compared to those in the non-VR MIP condition relative to control, and that this sensation of fear lasted two minutes longer than that elicited by the standard film clip MIP. However, both MIPs failed to generate a sensation of fear which was significantly different from baseline beyond four minutes post-MIP. Considering this, researchers should extend caution when interpreting effects of emotions in procedures which require participants to remain in an emotional state for an extended period. As VR-based mood induction is still new, future research should continue examining its ability to elicit different emotions.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License