Exploring Racism and Virtual Reality with Dr. Cogburn

On January 14 Dr. Courtney D. Cogburn from Columbia University demonstrated a virtual reality experience that she has developed to help combat racism. Hamlin faculty members participated in this activity in Ms. Holland Greene’s office.

Dr. Cogburn directs a research group that uses innovative means to characterize and measure racism and evaluate its effects on mental and physical health.

Associate Professor Courtney D. Cogburn employs a transdisciplinary approach to examining the role of racism in the production of racial inequalities in health. She is on the faculty of the Columbia Population Research Center and a faculty affiliate of the Center on African American Politics and Society and the Data Science Institute. The National Institutes of Health, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and the Brown Institute for Media Innovation at the Columbia School of Journalism have supported her work.

Dr. Cogburn is interested in the ways we characterize and measure racism and the effects of racism on racial inequalities in health. She has focused on examining the effects of cultural racism in the media on acute physiological, psychological, and behavioral stress responses as well as associations between chronic psychosocial stress exposure and Black/White disparities in cardiovascular health and disease. She is also developing a project using data science to explore links between media-based racism and population health.

In the experience the user embodies an African-American male and is put into three situations where race-based discrimination unfolds. In each scenario the participant witnesses and responds to a scene that happens in virtual reality. This project was originally developed two years ago and is being shared with various groups interested in better understanding racism.

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