Virtual burglary: Exploring the potential of virtual reality to study burglary in action

Jean-Louis Van Gelder, Claire Nee , Marco Otte, Andrew Demetriou, I. van Sintemaartensdijk, J.W. van Prooijen

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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Objectives: This article explores the potential of virtual reality (VR) to study
burglary by measuring user responses on the subjective, physiological, and
behavioral levels. Furthermore, it examines the influence of individual dispositions,
such as sensation seeking and self-control, on behavior during a
virtual burglary event. Methods: Participants, male university undergraduates
(N ¼ 77), could freely move around a virtual neighborhood wearing a VR
headset and using a game controller and were instructed to burgle one of
the houses in the neighborhood. Participant movement, items stolen from
the house, and heart rate (HR) were recorded throughout the burglary
event. Individual dispositions were measured before, and subjective user responses were measured after, the event. Additionally, we experimentally
varied whether there was an alarm sounding and participants’ beliefs about
the chance of getting caught (deterrence). Results: Participants reacted subjectively to the burglary event by reporting high levels of presence in the
virtual environment (VE) and physiologically by showing increased HRs. In
terms of behavior, high deterrence resulted in fewer items being stolen and
a shorter burglary. Furthermore, sensation seekers stole more valuable
items, while participants high in conscientiousness stole fewer items.
Conclusions: The results suggest that VEs have substantial potential for studying
criminal behavior.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)29-62
Number of pages34
JournalJournal of Research in Crime and Delinquency
Issue number1
Early online date20 Aug 2016
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2017


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