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Empathy for the mentally ill: dreams as a virtual reality delusion simulator

Research colloquium in EMC (Epistemology, Metaphysics, and the Philosophy of Cognition), talk by Melanie Rosen, IMC

2018.09.26 | Anne-Mette Pedersen

Date Fri 28 Sep
Time 12:30 14:30
Location School of Culture and Society, Room 1467-616


Virtual reality has shown some success in increasing empathy by simulating the perspective of one for whom empathy may be lacking. But virtual reality is limited in its ability to simulate experience. I argue that dreams go further towards simulating a broader variety of experiences, and via simulation can increasing our empathy, particularly towards those who suffer from mental illness. Dreams can tell us important things about people’s experiences by replicating those very experiences. Lacking empathy may be due to an inability to accurately cognitively attribute mental states to others via inference making – or an inability to simulate the experience of others in imagination. Dreaming can help mitigate these deficits of understanding or experience and help us empathise with others. Here I will outline reasons to believe that dreams can replicate to a reasonable degree what it is like to experience delusions and psychosis, and through these experiences, we learn something interesting about the lives of people with these conditions. However, it is important that we pay attention to these experiences and not discard them as simply unusual and bizarre. Dreams themselves face some limitations, and, where possible, I suggest some methods of overcoming these restrictions.