People, places, and time: a large-scale, longitudinal study of transformed avatars and environmental context in group interaction in the metaverse
As the metaverse expands, understanding how people use virtual reality to learn and connect is increasingly important. We used the Transformed Social Interaction paradigm (Bailenson, Beall, Loomis, Blascovich, & Turk, 2004) to examine different avatar identities and environments over time. In Study 1 (n = 81), entitativity, presence, enjoyment, and realism increased over 8 weeks. Avatars that resembled participants increased synchrony, similarities in moment-to-moment nonverbal behaviors between participants. Moreover, self-avatars increased self-presence and realism, but decreased enjoyment, compared to uniform avatars. In Study 2 (n = 137), participants cycled through 192 unique virtual environments. As visible space increased, so did nonverbal synchrony, perceived restorativeness, entitativity, pleasure, arousal, self- and spatial presence, enjoyment, and realism. Outdoor environments increased perceived restorativeness and enjoyment more than indoor environments. Self-presence and realism increased over time in both studies. We discuss implications of avatar appearance and environmental context on social behavior in classroom contexts over time.