Jeremy Bailenson: “Transformed Social Interaction in Virtual Reality”

March 30, 2006 | USC ICT

Speaker: Jeremy Bailenson
Host: Jonathan Gratch

Over time, our mode of remote communication has evolved from written letters to telephones, email, internet chat rooms, and
videoconferences. Similarly, collaborative virtual environments (CVEs) promise to further change the nature of remote interaction. CVEs are
systems which track verbal and nonverbal signals of multiple interactants and render those signals onto avatars, three-dimensional,
digital representations of people in a shared digital space. In this talk, I describe a series of projects that explore the manners in which CVEs qualitatively change the nature of remote communication. Unlike telephone conversations and videoconferences, interactants in CVEs have the ability to systematically filter the physical appearance and behavioral actions of their avatars in the eyes of their conversational partners, amplifying or suppressing features and nonverbal signals in real-time for strategic purposes. These transformations have a drastic impact on interactants’ persuasive and instructional abilities.

Furthermore, using CVEs, behavioral researchers can use this mismatch between performed and perceived behavior as a tool to examine complex patterns of nonverbal behavior with nearly perfect experimental control and great precision. Implications for communications systems and social interaction.