Fox, J., Ahn, S.J., Janssen, J., Yeykelis, L., Segovia, K., & Bailenson, J. N. (2015). Avatars versus agents: A meta-analysis quantifying the effect of agency. Human-Computer Interaction, 30 (5), 401-432.
Existing research has investigated whether virtual representations perceived to be controlled by humans i.e., avatars or those perceived to be controlled by computer algorithms i.e., agents are more influential. A meta-analysis N = 32 examined the model of social influence in virtual environments Blascovich, 2002 and investigated whether agents and avatars in virtual environments elicit different levels of social influence. Results indicated that perceived avatars produced stronger responses than perceived agents. Level of immersion desktop vs. fully immersive, dependent variable type subjective vs. objective, task type competitive vs. cooperative vs. neutral, and actual control of the representation human vs. computer were examined as moderators. An interaction effect revealed that studies conducted on a desktop that used objective measures showed a stronger effect for agency than those that were conducted on a desktop but used subjective measures. Competitive and cooperative tasks showed greater agency effects than neutral tasks. Studies in which both conditions were actually human controlled showed greater agency effects than studies in which both conditions were actually computer controlled. We discuss theoretical and design implications for human–computer interaction and computer-mediated communication.