Adaptive Non-Immersive VR Environment for Eliciting Fear of Cockroaches: A Physiology-Driven Approach Combined with 3D-TV Exposure
Pedro J. Rosa
HEI-lab/School of Psychology and Life Sciences, Universidade Lusófona de Humanidade e Tecnologias de Lisboa
Filipe Luz
Roberto Júnior
Jorge Oliveira
Diogo Morais
Pedro Gamito


Virtual Environment
Emotion elicitation
Cardiac Activity
Fear of cockroaches

How to Cite

Rosa, P. J., Luz, F., Júnior, R., Oliveira, J., Morais, D., & Gamito, P. (2020). Adaptive Non-Immersive VR Environment for Eliciting Fear of Cockroaches: A Physiology-Driven Approach Combined with 3D-TV Exposure. International Journal of Psychological Research, 13(2), 99-108.


Non-immersive VR environments are related to the least interactive application of VR techniques, such that interaction with the VR environment can occur commonly by 3D-TV without full immersion into the environment. This study presents how 3D-TV exposure combined with physiology recording can elicit fear of cockroaches among individuals with different levels of fear. Thirty-six participants, set apart into three fear groups (low vs. moderate vs. high), were exposed to VR environment with cockroaches for 4 minutes while recording and using cardiac activity as input to the VR environment. Results revealed significant effects on self-report measures and heart rate between different fear groups. Moreover, participants with higher levels of fear were more likely to trigger cockroaches into the scenario due to their cardiac acceleration. Overall results suggest that our physiology-driven VR environment is valid for fear elicitation while having potential use in therapeutic domain.



American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition. Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, (5th Edition).

Anolli, L., Mantovani, F., Confalonieri, L., Ascolese, A., & Peveri, L. (2010). Emotions in serious games: From experience to assessment. International Journal of Emerging Technologies in Learning, 5 (SI3), 7–16.

Becker, E. S., Rinck, M., Türke, V., Kause, P., Goodwin, R., Neumer, S., & Margraf, J. (2007). Epidemiology of specific phobia subtypes: Findings from the dresden mental health study. European Psychiatry, 22 (2), 69–74.

´Cosi´c, K., Popovi, S., Kukolja, D., Horvat, M., & Dropulji, B. (2010). Physiology-driven adaptive virtual reality stimulation for prevention and treatment of stress related disorders. Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking, 13 (1), 73–78.

Cui, J., & Qian, G. (2007). Selection of Working Correlation Structure and Best Model in GEE Analyses of Longitudinal Data. Communications in Statistics - Simulation and Computation, 36 (5), 987–996.

Curtis, V., & Biran, A. (2001). Dirt, disgust, and disease. is hygiene in our genes? Perspectives in Biology and Medicine, 44 (1), 17–31.

Dekker, A., & Champion, E. (2007). Please biofeed the zombies: Enhancing the gameplay and display of a horror game using biofeedback. In 3rd Digital Games Research Association International Conference: “Situated Play”, (pp. 550–558).

Essau, C. A., Conradt, J., & Petermann, F. (2000). Frequency, Comorbidity, and Psychosocial Impairment of Specific Phobia in Adolescents. Journal of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology, 29 (2), 221–231.

Fredrikson, M., Annas, P., Fischer, H., & Wik, G. (1996). Gender and age differences in the prevalence of specific fears and phobias. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 34 (1), 33–39.

Gamito, P., Oliveira, J., Baptista, A., Morais, D., Lopes, P., Rosa, P., Santos, N., & Brito, R. (2014). Eliciting nicotine craving with virtual smoking cues. Cyberpsychology, Behavior and Social Networking, 17 (8), 556–561.

Gamito, P., Oliveira, J., Morais, D., Rosa, P. J., & Saraiva, T. (2011a). NeuAR – A Review of the VR/AR Applications in the Neuroscience Domain In Andrew Yeh Ching Nee (Ed.), Augmented Reality Some Emerging Application Areas (pp. 131–154). InTech, Publishing.

Gamito, P., Oliveira, J., Morais, D., Rosa, P. J., & Saraiva, T. (2011b). Serious Games for Serious problems: from Ludicus to Therapeuticus In Kim JJ. (Ed.), Virtual Reality (pp. 527–548). InTech, Publishing.

Gamito, P., Oliveira, J., Rosa, P., Morais, D., Duarte, N., Oliveira, S., & Saraiva, T. (2010). PTSD elderly war veterans: A clinical controlled pilot study. Cyberpsychology, Behavior and Social Networking, 13 (1), 43–48.

Hood, H. K., & Antony, M. M. (2012). Evidence-Based Assessment and Treatment of Specific Phobias in Adults. In L. G. Davis III, T. E., Ollendick, T.H., Öst (Ed.), Autism and child psychopathology series. Intensive one-session treatment of specific (pp. 19–42).

Izard, C. E. (1977). Human Emotions. Springer US.

Kawai, N., & He, H. (2016). Breaking snake camouflage: Humans detect snakes more accurately than other animals under less discernible visual conditions. PLoS ONE, 11 (10), e0164342.

Kessler, R. C., Berglund, P., Demler, O., Jin, R., Merikangas, K. R., & Walters, E. E. (2005). Lifetime prevalence and age-of-onset distributions of dsmiv disorders in the national comorbidity survey replication. Archives of General Psychiatry, 62 (6), 593–602.

Kim, K. H., Bang, S. W., & Kim, S. R. (2004). Emotion recognition system using short-term monitoring of physiological signals. Medical and Biological Engineering and Computing, 42 (3), 419–427.

Larson, C. L., Schaefer, H. S., Siegle, G. J., Jackson, C. A. B., Anderle, M. J., & Davidson, R. J. (2006). Fear is fast in phobic individuals: Amygdala activation in response to fear-relevant stimuli. Biological Psychiatry, 60 (4), 410–417.

Ledoux, J. (2003). The emotional brain , fear , and the amygdala. Celllular and Molecular Neurobioloy, 23 (4–5), 727–738.

Li, Y., Elmaghraby, A. S., El-Baz, A., & Sokhadze, E. M. (2016). Using physiological signal analysis to design affective VR games. 2015 IEEE International Symposium on Signal Processing and Information Technology (pp. 57–62). ISSPIT.

Margalhos, P., & Rosa, P. J. (2016). Eye-tracking as a research methodology in educational context: the bridging framework. In C. A. Was, F. J. Sansosti, B. J. Morris (Eds.), Eye-Tracking Technology Applications in Educational Research (pp. 1–45). IGI Global editors.

Mayer, B., Muris, P., Vogel, L., Nojoredjo, I., & Merckelbach, H. (2006). Fear-relevant change detection in spider-fearful and non-fearful participants. Journal of Anxiety Disorders, 20 (4), 510–519.

Moghimi, M., Stone, R., Rotshtein, P., & Cooke, N. (2016). Influencing human affective responses to dynamic virtual environments. Presence, 25 (2), 81–107.

Öhman, A. (1986). Face the beast and fear the face: Animal and social fears as prototypes for evolutionary analyses of emotion. Psychophysiology, 23 (2), 123–145.

Peira, N., Fredrikson, M., & Pourtois, G. (2014). Controlling the emotional heart: Heart rate biofeedback improves cardiac control during emotional reactions. International Journal of Psychophysiology, 91 (3), 225–231.

Rosa, P. J., Esteves, F., & Arriaga, P. (2014). Effects of fear-relevant stimuli on attention: integrating gaze data with subliminal exposure [Conference session]. Proceedings of IEEE International Symposium on Medical Measurements and Applications, Lisboa.

Rosa, P. J., Esteves, F., & Arriaga, P. (2015). Beyond traditional clinical measurements for screening fears and phobias. IEEE Transactions on Instrumentation and Measurement, 64 (12), 3396– 3404.

Rosa, P. J., Gamito, P., Oliveira, J., & Morais, D. (2011). Attentional orienting to biologically fear-relevant stimuli: Data from eye tracking using the continual alternation flicker paradigm. Journal of Eye Tracking, Emotion and Cognition, 1 (1), 22–29.

Rosa, P. J., Gamito, P., Oliveira, J., Morais, D., Pavlovic, M., & Smyth, O. (2015). Show me your eyes! The combined use of eye tracking and virtual reality applications for cognitive assessment. In Fardoun, H. M., Gamito, P., Penichet, V. M. R., & Alghazzawi, D. M. (Eds.). REHAB 15: Proceedings of the 2015 Workshop on ICTs for improving Patients Rehabilitation Research Techniques (pp. 135-139). ACM.

Rosa, P. J., Lopes, P., Oliveira, J., & Pascoal, P. (2019). Does length really matter? Effects of number of pages in the informed consent on reading behavior: An Eye-Tracking Study. In Communications in Computer and Information Science (Vol. 1002, pp. 116–125). Springer, Cham.

Rosa, P. J., Morais, D., Oliveira, J., Gamito, P., Smyth, O., & Pavlovic, M. (2017). Assessment of attentional and mnesic processes through gaze tracking analysis: inferences from comparative search tasks embedded in VR serious games. In J. Garrido (Ed), ICTs for Improving Patient Rehabilitation Research Techniques (pp. 26-34). Springer.

Rosa, P. J., Oliveira, J., Alghazzawi, D., Fardoun, H., & Gamito, P. (2017). Affective and physiological correlates of perception of unimodal and bimodal emotional stimuli. Psicothema, 29 (3), 364–369. https://doi.org10.7334/psicothema2016.272.

Sakurazawa, S., Yoshida, N., & Munekata, N. (2004). Entertainment Feature of a Game Using Skin Conductance Response. In Proceedings of the 2004 ACM SIGCHI International Conference on Advances in Computer Entertainment Technology (pp. 181–186). Association for Computing Machinery.

Scandola, M., Bastinelli, A., Spoto, A., & Vidotto, G. (2010). The Fear of Cockroaches Questionnaire (FCQ). Review of Psychology, 17 (2), 1–8.

Sharpe, D. (2015). Chi-square test is statistically significant: Now what? Practical Assessment, Research, and Evaluation, 20 (8), 1–10.

Sharples, S., Cobb, S., Moody, A., & Wilson, J. R. (2008). Virtual reality induced symptoms and effects (VRISE): Comparison of head mounted display (HMD), desktop and projection display systems. Displays, 29 (2), 58–69.

Slater, M. (2009). Place Illusion and Plausibility can lead to realistic behaviour in immersive virtual environments. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London, 364, 3549–355.

Stinson, F. S., Dawson, D. S., Chou, S. P., Smith, S., Goldtein, R. B., Ruan, W. J., & Grant, B. F. (2007). The epidemiology of DSM-IV specific phobia in the USA: Results from the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions. Psychological Medicine, 37 (7), 1047–1059.

Szymanski, J., & O’Donohue, W. (1995). Fear of Spiders Questionnaire. Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry, 26 (1), 31–34.

van Rooij, M., Lobel, A., Harris, O., Smit, N., & Granic, I. (2016). DEEP: A Biofeedback Virtual Reality Game for Children At-risk for Anxiety. In Proceedings of the 2016 CHI Conference Extended Abstracts on Human Factors in Computing Systems - CHI EA ’16 (Vol. 07-12-May) (pp. 1989–1997). ACM Press.

Wang, Q., Sourina, O., & Nguyen, M. K. (2010). EEGBased “Serious” Games Design for Medical Applications. In 2010 International Conference on Cyberworlds (pp. 270–276). IEEE.

Watson, D., Clark, L. A., & Tellegen, A. (1988). Development and validation of brief measures of positive and negative affect: the PANAS scales. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 54 (6), 1063–1070. 2-3514.54.6.1063.

Wolitzky-Taylor, K. B., Horowitz, J. D., Powers, M. B., & Telch, M. J. (2008). Psychological approaches in the treatment of specific phobias: A metaanalysis. Clinical Psychology Review, 28 (6), 1021–1037.

Ziegler, A. (2011). Generalized Estimating Equations (Vol.204). Springer New York.

Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

The work that is sent to this journal must be original, not published or sent to be published elsewhere; and if it is accepted for publication, authors will agree to transfer copyright to International Journal of Psychological Research. 

To give up copyright, the authors allow that, International Journal of Psychological Research, distribute the work more broadly, check for the reuse by others and take care of the necessary procedures for the registration and administration of copyright; at the same time, our editorial board represents the interests of the author and allows authors to re-use his work in various forms. In response to the above, authors transfer copyright to the journal, International Journal of Psychological Research. This transfer does not imply other rights which are not those of authorship (for example those that concern about patents). Likewise, preserves the authors rights to use the work integral or partially in lectures, books and courses, as well as make copies for educational purposes. Finally, the authors may use freely the tables and figures in its future work, wherever make explicit reference to the previous publication in International Journal of Psychological Research. The assignment of copyright includes both virtual rights and forms of the article to allow the editorial to disseminate the work in the manner which it deems appropriate. 

The editorial board reserves the right of amendments deemed necessary in the application of the rules of publication.