Demonstrating virtual reality research to lawmakers

Psychological scientist works with computer scientist to study children’s safety behavior.

At the 2019 Coalition for Health Funding’s Public Health Fair on Capitol Hill, held on September 12, the American Psychological Association (APA) and the Federation of Associations in Behavioral and Brain Sciences  (FABBS) jointly showcased groundbreaking interdisciplinary research by psychologist Jodie Plumert which is enabling scientists to observe children and their decision-making skills in a risk-free way in virtual reality (VR) environments. (Watch a video about their research.)

Dr. Jodie Plumert helps Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA) with a VR headset

Dr. Jodie Plumert helps Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA) with a VR headset

Dr. Plumert and her collaborator, computer scientist Joseph Kearney, both of the University of Iowa, demonstrated the technology that enables them to study street-crossing behavior to Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA), a member of the House Appropriations Subcommittee that funds the National Institutes of Health.  Rep. Roybal-Allard was among the many attendees who tried out the VR helmet and ran across a (virtual) road.

Dr. Jodie Plumert and Dr. Joseph Kearney at the Public Health Fair

Dr. Jodie Plumert and Dr. Joseph Kearney at the Public Health Fair

While in DC, the two Iowa scientists also met directly with Rep. Dave Loebsack (D-IA) and congressional staff from the offices of Senators Joni Ernst (R-IA) and Charles Grassley (R-IA) to discuss the impact and benefits of research funding.

Held annually in a congressional office building, the Public Health Fair is an interactive exhibition designed to educate congressional representatives and staff about current health topics.  Past APA exhibits at the fair have included VR applications designed to distract burn patients from painful medical procedures, and brief interventions designed to reduce stress as part of an exhibit on APA’s “Stress in America” survey.

For more information, contact Pat Kobor, pkobor@apa.org, of APA’s Advocacy Office.