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Demographic differences in presence across seven studies


It is often necessary for virtual reality (VR) users to experience a sense of presence for the benefits of VR applications to be realized. However, feelings of presence are subjective and depend not only on the nature of the VR environment but also on the users’ unique characteristics. To maximize the likelihood of achieving desired VR outcomes, it is important to understand the user characteristics that impact the likelihood of users’ feelings of social and environmental presence. Addressing this knowledge gap is an important first step toward verifying whether all user populations have access to equally efficacious VR experiences. To this end, we report data from seven independent samples collected within one laboratory group (total N = 1145). In these studies, participants were asked to perform tasks in VR such as traversing environments, pointing at and selecting objects, and interacting with virtual humans. Meta-analyses revealed that, on average, feelings of presence were not significantly related to age or gender, but differed by racial group membership. Significant racial differences in presence were found for both environmental and social presence. Black participants reported approximately half a standard deviation more presence than White participants. No overall differences between Asian and White participants’ reported presence were found. These findings provide a context for future studies that may explore demographic differences in presence directly.

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The datasets generated during and/or analyzed during the current study are available in the OSF repository,


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This work was supported by the Intramural Research Program of the National Genome Research Institute.

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Correspondence to Susan Persky.

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All studies received appropriate IRB approval.

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We have no known competing interests to disclose.

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Appendix A

Appendix A

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Table 6 Presence measures


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Martingano, A.J., Duane, JN., Brown, E. et al. Demographic differences in presence across seven studies. Virtual Reality 27, 2297–2313 (2023).

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