Stanford University

When Does Virtual Embodiment Change our Minds?

Bailey, J.O., Bailenson, J.N., & Casasanto, D. (2016). When does virtual embodiment change our minds? Presence: Teleoperators and Virtual Environments. 25(2).

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Can an avatar’s body movements change a person’s perception of good and bad? We discuss virtual embodiment according to theories of embodied cognition (EC), and afferent and sensorimotor correspondences. We present an example study using virtual reality (VR) to test EC theory, testing the effect of altered virtual embodiment on perception. Participants either controlled an avatar whose arm movements were similar to their own or reflected the mirror opposite of their arm movements. We measured their associations of “good” and “bad” with the left and right (i.e. space-valence associations). This study demonstrated how VR could be used to examine the possible ways that systems of the body (i.e. visual, motor) may interact to influence cognition. The implications of this research suggest that visual feedback alone is not enough to alter space-valence associations. Multiple sensory experiences of media (i.e. sensorimotor feedback) may be necessary to influence cognition, not simply visual feedback.

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