Physiological Responses to Virtual Selves and Virtual Others

Fox, J., Bailenson J.N., & Ricciardi, T. (2012). Physiological Responses to Virtual Selves and Virtual Others. Journal of CyberTherapy & Rehabilitation, 5 (1), 69-72.


Previous research indicates that photorealistic virtual representations (i.e., agents and avatars) of the self can influence attitude and behavior change. this study was designed to test participants’ physiological reactions to exercising or still agents that resembled the self or a stranger. a within-subjects experiment tested participants’ (n = 10) skin conductance in response to running and loitering virtual selves (created from participants’ photographs) and virtual others. Participants entered a fully immersive virtual environment and observed the agents as their physiological response was measured. arousal was greatest when exposed to a running virtual self or a loitering virtual other. the finding that the virtual self causes physiological arousal may explain why a running virtual self has been shown in previous research to increase exercise behavior after exposure. implications for the development of Virtual Reality exercise treatments and other virtual therapies are discussed.