A Study of Emotional Contagion with Virtual Characters
In social psychology, emotional contagion describes the widely observed phenomenon of one person’s emotions mimicking surrounding people’s emotions . In this paper, we perform a battery of experiments to explore the existence of agent-human emotional contagion. The first study is a between-subjects design, wherein subjects were shown an image of a character’s face with either a neutral or happy expression. Findings indicate that even a still image induces a very strong increase in self-reported happiness between Neutral and Happy conditions with all characters tested.
In a second study, we examine the effect of a virtual character’s presence in a strategic decision by presenting subjects with a modernized Stag Hunt game. Our experiments show that the contagion effect is substantially dampened and does not cause a consistent impact on behavior. A third study explores the impact of the strategic situation within the Stag Hunt and conducts the same experiment using a description of the same strategic situation with the decision already made. We find that the emotional impact returns, implying that the contagion effect is substantially lessened in the presence of a strategic decision.
KeywordsVirtual Reality Strategic Decision Emotional Contagion Contagion Effect Virtual Character
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