McCall, C., Bailenson, J.N., Blascovich, J., & Beall, A. C. (2009). Leveraging collaborative virtual environment technology for inter-population research on persuasion in a classroom setting. PRESENCE: Teleoperators & Virtual Environments, 18 (5), 361-369.
Immersive collaborative virtual environments (CVEs) allow us to interact with geographically distant others while experiencing social presence to a degree that goes far beyond text chatting or teleconferencing. Moreover, these environments provide this high level of realism within social contexts that are impossible in the physical world. Given these facts, CVEs provide behavioral researchers with an ideal platform to study social interaction both within and between geographically and culturally distinct communities. The study reported here leveraged these two unique capabilities of CVEs within a persuasive context by: (1) placing people who are seated in physically distal places into the exact same virtual world, and (2) structuring virtual space to maximize persuasion. Specifically, we report data from a study in which pairs of participants listened to a speaker deliver a persuasive passage within the same digital immersive virtual room. The individual members of each pair were separated by hundreds of kilometers, located at two different college campuses. Within the CVE, we digitally transformed the placement of participants' seats in the virtual classroom. Participants in the front of the classroom were more persuaded by the speaker and had more positive impressions of the speaker. Patterns in both persuasion and memory differed between campuses. Together these findings speak to the utility of wide range CVEs to maximize persuasion and demonstrate the viability of using CVEs for inter-site research.