Embodied Presence: Evidence for Embodiment of Effectors When Pointing in Virtual Environments

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Langerak, Robin M.




In this thesis, I proposed and tested the Embodied Presence Model (EPM), a framework aimed at examining the role of mental representations of the environment and body's effectors in supporting presence in virtual reality. A fundamental assumption of the EPM is that presence is a direct result of interactions between one's environment and one's effectors (e.g., hands) thus requiring a mental representation of both. The EPM was therefore informed by current perspectives from perceptual, cognitive, and neuropsychology literature on how the relationship between the environment and the body. Three experiments were conducted, each with approximately 50 participants. In all three experiments a virtual pointing task was used wherein participants made speeded pointing movements to virtual targets presented on the table in front of them the virtual environment. Behavioral data included latency measures (i.e., hand liftoff time and hand travel time) and landing accuracy of pointing movements. Subjective data were also collected using an adaptation of the Rubber Hand Illusion questionnaire. Experiment 1 served as a paradigm check and examined the kinematic characteristics of pointing movements made by the left and right hands. Experiment 2 examined the influence of changes to the virtual environments on pointing behaviour by introducing fire into the virtual environment. Experiment 3 examined the combined effects of altering the virtual environment - once again with the use of virtual fire - and the virtual effector by comparing pointing behaviour in a virtual hand and a virtual cube condition. Findings suggest that representations of the virtual environment and effectors both influence pointing behaviour, and that these factors may support embodied presence independently. A better understanding of these psychological underpinnings of embodied presence will improve the use of VR in a multitude of situations, including research, training and clinical applications.


Psychology - Cognitive




Carleton University

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