Virtual Reality and Fear of Shark Attack

Published on
13. July 2020

Virtual Reality and Fear of Shark Attack: A Case Study for the Treatment of Squalophobia

Eric Malbos, George H. Burgess, Christophe Lancon


Research treatment protocols are rare regarding an unusual anxiety disorder, namely the fear of sharks (squalophobia). As a possible solution, the effectiveness of virtual reality (VR) exposure therapy for this phobia was tested. The advantage of using VR becomes clearer when a real life set up is impractical, such as exposing a phobic patient to a feared large marine organism, the shark. The effects were evaluated in a single case study involving multiple context-graded aquatic virtual environments with a virtual shark and using affordable VR apparatus and software. Assessment was based on self-report questionnaires. Scores the psychometric instruments exhibited a discernable reduction in fear toward sharks. Such gains were maintained at a 12-month follow-up. Presence rates indicated immersion when confronted to a three-dimensional (3D) virtual shark. This initial study revealed the potential of VR for the treatment of marine biota phobia and its potential to recreate diverse situations for exposure therapy.

Clinical Case Studies ( IF 0.817 ) DOI: 10.1177/1534650120940014


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