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    Cognitive impacts of social virtual reality: disentangling the virtual mere presence and audience effect

    Sutskova, Olga (2023) Cognitive impacts of social virtual reality: disentangling the virtual mere presence and audience effect. PhD thesis, Birkbeck, University of London.

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    Researchers have investigated the impacts of social co-presence on the individual’s performance for over a century, finding that performance changes in a social setting when contrasted to performing alone – termed the social facilitation effect (SFE). Driven by the demand for realistic remote interaction, social technologies are currently aspiring to elicit a meaningful state of virtual co-presence. However, the virtual-SFE literature is currently inconclusive, especially when contrasting the AI versus human-driven SFE-impact. This thesis argues that current virtual-SFE findings can be elucidated by investigating SFE through its mechanisms: the feeling of being observed (audience effect: AE) and the sense of co-presence with another person (mere presence effect: MPE). The three experiments tested whether AE and MPE impact participants cognitive performance differently, depending on whether the companion is human-minded or AI-driven, during either remote videoconference or lab-based immersive virtual interaction. AE was predicted to be susceptible to human-minded companion impact, the MPE to be susceptible to the visual co-presence of any humanoid companion. Videoconference-based experiment one and two demonstrated that videoconference MPE and AE were facilitatory: MPE driven by the participants self-visual presence, not companion-visual presence and AE driven by human-minded companion as predicted. The immersive in-lab experiment three found MPE and AE were inhibitory: humanoid companion presence drove the MPE, and AE was irrespective of companion mind property. Overall, the findings supported the predictions that MPE and AE can be aroused independently by changing participants beliefs about their social-companion and their observed virtual co-presence, explaining some trends in current virtual-SFE literature. However, future studies should be mindful of virtual platform affordances, participants self-presence, and real-world testing-environment when testing and interpreting results. The sufficient level of virtual co-immersion and self-visual presence is required for virtual-SFE. Hopefully this research will pave the way towards greater understanding of virtual cognition and development of wellbeing-focused virtual-platforms.


    Item Type: Thesis
    Copyright Holders: The copyright of this thesis rests with the author, who asserts his/her right to be known as such according to the Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988. No dealing with the thesis contrary to the copyright or moral rights of the author is permitted.
    Depositing User: Acquisitions And Metadata
    Date Deposited: 14 Jun 2023 16:11
    Last Modified: 01 Nov 2023 16:13


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