The Effects of Nature-Based Travel in Virtual Reality: The Role of Spatial Presence and Narrative Engagement

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The benefits of nature tourism, or nature-based travel, are plentiful. For example, participation in nature tours has positively impacted environmental attitudes and behaviors. Unfortunately, while psychologically beneficial, nature-based tourism can hurt the environment through a myriad of factors. Therefore, we must continue to explore ways to make the benefits of nature-based travel more sustainable and impactful. Research suggests that nature-based travel in virtual reality (VR) may impart numerous travel benefits, such as improving conservational behavior and interconnectedness with nature. While these early findings are promising, questions remain regarding the theoretical mechanisms underlying the effects of nature-based VR travel. Therefore, this study explores how VR may provide an avenue to make nature tourism more environmentally friendly while simultaneously making people more environmentally connected and conscious. Furthermore, a theoretical framework is posited that combines concepts from the spatial presence and narrative persuasion literature to help explain the effects. To accomplish these goals, an experiment was conducted using a two-condition (VR travel vs. TV control) between-subjects factorial design with random assignment. The participants were 66 college students from a large Midwestern University in the United States. Results indicated that there wasn’t a statistically significant difference between the VR travel condition and the television (TV) control condition regarding the environmental outcome variables. However, while the nature-based VR travel experience did not appear to influence the environmental outcome variables directly, it did indirectly affect them through the mediating roles of spatial presence and narrative engagement.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)679-685
Number of pages7
JournalCyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 1 2023


  • environment
  • narrative engagement
  • nature tourism and travel
  • spatial presence
  • virtual reality

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Communication
  • Social Psychology
  • Human-Computer Interaction
  • Applied Psychology
  • Computer Science Applications


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