That Avatar Is Looking at Me! Social Inhibition in Virtual Worlds

  • Austen L. Hayes
  • Amy C. Ulinski
  • Larry F. Hodges
Conference paper
Part of the Lecture Notes in Computer Science book series (LNCS, volume 6356)


What effect does controlling an avatar, while in the presence of other virtual agents, have on task performance in virtual worlds? Would the type of view have an influence on this effect? We conducted a study to observe the effects of social inhibition/facilitation traditionally seen in human-to-human interaction. The theory of social inhibition/facilitation states that the presence of others causes people to perform worse on complex tasks and better on simple tasks. Simple tasks are well-learned, easy tasks, while complex tasks require more thought processes to complete the task. Participants interacted in a virtual world through control of an avatar. Using this avatar, they completed both simple and complex math tasks in both 1st person and 3rd person views, either in the presence of another female virtual agent, male agent, or alone. The results from this study show that gender of virtual agents has an effect on real humans’ sense of presence in the virtual world. Trends exist for inhibition and facilitation based on the gender of the agent and the view type. We have also identified several challenges in conducting experimental studies in virtual worlds. Our results may have implications on designing for education and training purposes in virtual worlds.


Avatars virtual agents embodied agents virtual worlds Second Life social facilitation social inhibition 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. 1.
    Alexander, L., Martray, C.: The development of an abbreviated version of the mathematics anxiety rating scale. Measurement and Evaluation in Counseling and Development 22(3), 143–150 (1989)Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Blascovich, J., Mendes, W.B., Hunter, S.B., Salomon, K.: Social “facilitation” as challenge and threat. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 31, 422–429 (1999)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. 3.
    Bond, C.F., Titus, L.J.: Social facilitation: A meta-analysis of 241 studies. Psychological Bulletin 94, 265–292 (1983)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. 4.
    Cliburn, D.C., Gross, J.L.: Second Life as a Medium for Lecturing in College Courses. In: 42nd Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences, HICSS 2009, pp. 1–8, 5–8 (2009)Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    Cottrell, N.B., Wack, D.L., Sekerak, G.J., Rittle, R.H.: Social facilitation of dominant responses by the presence of an audience and the mere presence of others. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 9, 245–250 (1968)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. 6.
    Garau, M., Slater, M., Pertaub, D.P., Razzaque, S.: The responses of people to virtual humans in an immersive virtual environment. Presence: Teleoperators and Virtual Environments 14, 104–116 (2005)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. 7.
    Guerin, B., Innes, J.M.: Social facilitation and social monitoring: A new look at Zajonc’s mere presence hypothesis. British Journal of Social Psychology 2, 7–18 (1982)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. 8.
    Hoyt, C., Blascovich, J., Swinth, K.: Social inhibition in immersive virtual environments. Presence: Teleoperators and Virtual Environments 12(2), 183–195 (2003)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. 9.
    Jaeger, B.: What educational activities fit virtual worlds: Towards a theoretical evaluation framework. In: 3rd IEEE International Conference on Digital Ecosystems and Technologies, DEST 2009, pp. 715–720 (2009)Google Scholar
  10. 10.
    Kallinen, K., Salminen, M., Ravaja, N., Kedzior, R., Sääksjärvi, M.: Presence and emotion in computer game players during 1st person vs. In: Proceedings of the PRESENCE 2007, 3rd person playing view: Evidence from self-report, eye-tracking, and facial muscle activity data, pp. 187–190 (2007)Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    Lim, S., Reeves, B.: Computer agents versus avatars: Responses to interactive game characters controlled by a computer or other player. Int. J. Hum.-Comput. Stud. 68(1-2), 57–68 (2010)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. 12.
    Messinger, P.R., Stroulia, E., Lyons, K., Bone, M., Niu, R.H., Smirnov, K., Perelgut, S.: Virtual worlds – past, present, and future: New directions in social computing. Decision Support Systems, Communities and Social Network 47(3), 204–228 (2009)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. 13.
    Middleton, S.E.: Interface agents: A review of the field. Technical Report. University of Southampton (2000)Google Scholar
  14. 14.
    Mortensen, J., Vinayagamoorthy, V., Slater, M., Steed, A., Lok, B., Whitton, M.C.: Collaboration in Tele-Immersive Environments. In: Proc. of the Workshop on Virtual Environments, vol. 23, pp. 93–101 (2002)Google Scholar
  15. 15.
    Okita, S.Y., Bailenson, J., Schwartz, D.: The mere belief of social interaction improves learning. In: Proceedings of the 29th Annual Cognitive Science Society, pp. 1355–1360. Congnitive Science Society, Austin (2007)Google Scholar
  16. 16.
    Oliver, I.A., Miller, A.H., Allison, C.: Virtual worlds, real traffic: interaction and adaptation. In: Proceedings of the First Annual ACM SIGMM Conference on Multimedia Systems, MMSys 2010, pp. 305–316. ACM, New York (2010)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. 17.
    Pertaub, D.P., Slater, M., Barker, C.: An experiment on pubic speaking anxiety in response to three different types of virtual audience. Presence: Teleoperators and Virtual Environments 11, 68–78 (2002)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. 18.
    Sanders, G.S., Baron, R.s., Moore, D.L.: Distraction and social comparison as mediators of social facilitation effects. J. of Experimental Social Psych. 14, 291–303 (1978)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. 19.
    Triplett, N.: The dynamogenic factors in pacemaking and competition. Journal of Psychology 9, 507–533 (1898)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. 20.
    Usoh, M., Catena, E., Arman, S., Slater, M.: Using Presence Questionnaires in Reality. Presence: Teleoperators and Virtual Environments 9(5), 497–503 (2000)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. 21.
    Yee, N., Bailenson, J.N., Ducheneaut, N.: The Proteus effect: Implications of transformed digital self-representation on online and offline behavior. Communication Research 36(2), 285–312 (2009)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. 22.
    Zajonc, R.B.: Social Facilitation. Science 149, 269–274 (1965)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. 23.
    Zanbaka, C.A., Ulinski, A.C., Goolkasian, P., Hodges, L.F.: Social responses to virtual humans: implications for future interface design. In: Proceedings of the SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems, CHI 2007, San Jose, California, USA, April 28 - May 03, pp. 1561–1570. ACM, New York (2007)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. 24.
    Zanbaka, C., Goolkasian, P., Hodges, L.F.: Can a virtual cat persuade you? The role of gender and realism in speaker persuasiveness. In: Proc. CHI 2006, pp. 1153–1162. ACM Press, New York (2006)Google Scholar
  25. 25.
    Zanbaka, C., Ulinski, A., Goolkasian, P., Hodges, L.F.: Effects of Virtual Human Presence on Task Performance. In: Proc. ICAT 2004, pp. 174–181 (2004)Google Scholar
  26. 26.
    Zhang, Q., Marksbury, N., Heim, S.: A Case Study of Communication and Social Interactions in Learning in Second Life. In: 2010 43rd Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences (HICSS), pp. 1–9 (2010)Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Austen L. Hayes
    • 1
  • Amy C. Ulinski
    • 1
  • Larry F. Hodges
    • 1
  1. 1.School of Computing ClemsonUniversity Clemson

Personalised recommendations