Homuncular Flexibility in Virtual Reality

Won, A.S., Bailenson, J.N., Lee, J.D., Lanier, J. (2015). Homuncular Flexibility in Virtual Reality. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 20, 241-259.


Immersive virtual reality allows people to inhabit avatar bodies that differ from their own, and this can produce significant psychological and physiological effects. The concept of homuncular flexibility (Lanier, 2006) proposes that users can learn to control bodies different from their own by changing the relationship between tracked and rendered motion. We examine the effects of remapping movements in the real world onto an avatar that moves in novel ways. In Experiment 1, participants moved their legs more than their arms in conditions where leg movements were more effective for the task. In Experiment 2, participants controlling 3-armed avatars learned to hit more targets than participants in 2-armed avatars. We discuss the implications of embodiment in novel bodies.