Interbeing Perspective & Animal Attitudes:
Augmenting a Virtual Reality Compassion Intervention with a New Understanding of Consciousness
One of As We Wake's Interbeing Research Lab projects included teaming up with PETA to bring the “I, Calf” experience to Columbia University's campus. "I, Calf" is a virtual reality experience, which uses a combination of filmed footage, computer animation, and audio narration. Based on a true story, the viewer is placed “in the body” of a young calf whose mother secretly gave birth to twins and, remembering that farmers took her previous babies away, hid one of the newborns to protect him. Columbia University students were encouraged to put the virtual realty goggles on to experience this perspective. Interbeing Research Lab members collected pre and post data upon each student viewing.
There are at least two different senses of connectedness: the connectedness of all things, and the connectedness of all subjective experience. This differentiation is rooted in people’s innate tendency towards a dualistic distinction between mind and matter. Even if all physical things are believed to be connected, it is possible to believe mental experiences are fundamentally separate between individuals. Such separation is the basis from which the devaluation of others emerges. With higher degrees of separateness often come higher degrees of devaluation. Animals, being separate not only at the the individual level but also at the species level, are highly subject to devaluation by humans. The purpose of this study is to determine whether Interbeing based education could amplify the impact of an experiential virtual reality simulation designed to reduce moral bias against animals.
Researchers hypothesized that the non-duality/Interbeing meditation intervention would be associated with higher changes towards positive attitudes towards animals, and interest in ethical eating and veganism, compared to the control condition.
To demonstrate that non-dual/Interbeing education is not simply a philosophical novelty, but has important practical implications for positively influencing people’s attitudes towards other sentient creatures.
Participants are assigned into two groups. The experimental group is given a 2 minute 40 second guided meditation on non-duality/Interbeing, followed by a five minute virtual reality intervention provided by PETA’s I, Calf immersive experience. The control group is given an equivalent duration guided meditation on mindfulness, along with the I, Calf intervention. Measures on the Animal Attitudes Scale (2015), Non-Dual Awareness Assessment (2018), and Interbeing Scale (2019) were collected pre and post intervention.