PsychNology Journal, Volume 6, Number 2, 203 – 216

Contrasting the Effectiveness and Efficiency of Virtual Reality and Real Environments in the Treatment of Acrophobia

Carlos M. Coelho, Jennifer Tichon, Guy Wallis
University of Queensland, Australia

Carlos F. Silva
University of Aveiro, Portugal

Jorge A. Santos
University of Minho, Portugal



Previous studies reported good results in using virtual reality for the treatment of acrophobia. Similarly this paper reports the use of a virtual environment for the treatment of acrophobia. In the study, 10 subjects were exposed to three sessions of simulated heights in a virtual reality (VR) system, and 5 others were exposed to a real environment. Both groups revealed significant progress in a range of anxiety, avoidance and behaviour measurements when confronted with virtual as well as real height circumstances. Despite VR participants experiencing considerably shorter treatment times than the real-world subjects, significant improvements were recorded on the Behavioural Avoidance Test, the Attitudes Toward Heights Questionnaire and the Acrophobia Questionnaire. These results are suggestive of a possible higher effectiveness and efficiency of VR in treating acrophobia.



Acrophobia, heights, virtual reality, fear, treatment.


Coelho, C.M., Silva, C.F., Santos, J.A., Tichon, J., & Wallis, G (2008). Virtual and Real Environments for Acrophobia Desensitisation. PsychNology Journal, 6(2), 203 – 216. Retrieved [month] [day], [year], from

Download Full Text (.pdf)

Return to PsychNology Journal, Volume 6, Number 2