Okita, S.Y., Bailenson, J., Schwartz, D. L. (2007). The mere belief of social interaction improves learning, In Proceedings of the Twenty-ninth Meeting of the Cognitive Science Society. August, Nashville, USA.
Three studies tested the hypothesis that the mere belief in having a social interaction with someone improves learning, more attention and higher arousal. Participants studied a passage on fever mechanisms. They entered a virtual reality (VR) environment and met an embodied agent. The participant either read aloud or silently, scripted questions on the fever passage. In the avatar-aloud and avatar-silent conditions, participants were told that the virtual representation was controlled by a person. The agent condition was told that the virtual representation was a computer program. All interactions within VR were held constant, but the avatar conditions exhibited better learning, more attention, and higher arousal. Further results suggest that this was not due to social belief per se, but rather in the belief of taking a socially relevant action.