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Virtual Reality (VR) is a powerful tool that immerses users in virtual worlds while they remain in their physical surroundings. Research on VR's impact on charitable giving is scarce, but it has the potential to enhance empathy for disadvantaged groups. However, understanding how users experience VR content and its effects on attitudes and behaviors is essential.
We conducted an experiment comparing VR and desktop computer experiences using "The Displaced" documentary. Our hypotheses were mostly supported, indicating that VR fosters spatial presence, attention allocation, spatial situation models, and empathy. Surprisingly, there was no significant difference in donation behavior.
These findings have implications for nonprofit marketing, highlighting VR's capacity to boost empathy but not necessarily donations. Organizations should explore additional content variables, like embodying the beneficiary, to drive contributions. This study contributes to the understanding of VR, empathy, and nonprofit marketing.