A cognitive model for emotional regulation in virtual reality exposure

Marcel Takac, James Collett, Russell Conduit, Alexander De Foe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Virtual reality exposure (VRE) is an effective form of psychotherapy. However, theoretical frameworks for user experience of virtual reality (VR) have yet to be fully integrated with psychological theory, limiting optimisation of VRE. Presence, a sense of being in a specific place, is the dominant focus of VR/VRE research into emotion regulation. Critically, presence is subject to limitations that make it an impractical concept where precision is needed. More meaningful insights can be obtained by examining specific cognitive constructs. Additionally, presence is a technology-focused consideration. This review argues that in psychotherapy, it is the personal meaning of an environment, rather than the concrete properties of the environment itself, that informs interventions. Because personal meaning is subject to individual differences and most VRE scenarios are generic by nature, situational plausibility must be managed by the therapist. The cognitive person-focused model has been developed to address the limitations of the existing presence–emotion concepts. This model provides a much-needed psychological framework to inform and guide researchers and therapists. The framework also creates a scaffold to support additional variables of interest. As part of the model justification, an examination of presence literature limitations is included. It is hoped that validation and ongoing development of the model will help advance VRE research and therapy.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages14
JournalVirtual Reality
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • Cognition
  • Emotional regulation
  • Presence
  • Psychotherapy
  • Virtual reality
  • Virtual reality exposure

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