PsychNology Journal, Volume 6, Number 1, 7 – 25

Presence and Relaxation: A Preliminary Controlled Study

Daniela Villani
ICE-NET Lab, Catholic University of Milan, Italy

Giuseppe Riva
Applied Technology for Neuro-Psychology Lab, Istituto Auxologico Italiano,Milan, Italy



Technologies such as Virtual Reality (VR) that induce presence in a virtual, but still external, perceived world, have great power to evoke emotional experiences that can lead to psychotherapeutically valuable changes in the individual. This reflects the power of presence – seen as the feeling of being located in a perceived, external world – in developing and affecting psychological wellbeing. Until today Virtual reality Environments (VEs) have been incorporated into a variety of clinical and everyday settings to improve mental health. Nevertheless many areas in the health field can be still explored by using this innovative technology. One example is represented by stress management area, one of the leading mental health problems of western societies linked to several pathologies. Following this trend our proposal is to investigate with a non clinical sample the efficacy of a relaxing narrative through a virtual experience. In a controlled study we compared three different media: Immersive VR, DVD and Audio speaker, by using the same therapeutic narrative and protocol. A control group without treatment was also included in the study. The sample included 60 university students, randomly divided in four experimental conditions. Non parametric test and correlation were used to analyse self-reports and physiological parameters. Within groups analysis - in both VR and DVD conditions - showed a significant improvement of the emotional state and significative physiological changes. Furthermore, regression analysis showed that a relationship exists between the sense of presence and the outcome achieved by the mediated experience. However, the absence of significant differences from the analysis between groups suggests that the principal determinant of presence might be the content proposed within the mediated experience. Further reflections about sense of presence in relaxing virtual environments will be discussed.



Relaxation, Virtual Reality, Presence, Emotions.


Villani D. and Riva G. (2008). Presence and Relaxation: A Preliminary Controlled Study. PsychNology Journal, 6(1), 7 – 25. Retrieved [month] [day], [year], from

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