Non-Hierarchical Influence of Visual Form, Touch and Position Cues on Embodiment, Agency and Presence in Virtual Reality

Abstract

The concept of self-representation is commonly decomposed into three component constructs (sense of embodiment, sense of agency, and sense of presence), and each is typically investigated separately across different experimental contexts. For example, embodiment has been explored in bodily illusions; agency has been investigated in hypnosis research; and presence has been primarily studied in the context of Virtual Reality (VR) technology. Given that each component involves the integration of multiple cues within and across sensory modalities, they may rely on similar underlying mechanisms. However, the degree to which this may be true remains unclear when they are independently studied. As a first step towards addressing this issue, we manipulated a range of cues relevant to these components of self-representation within a single experimental context. Using consumer-grade Oculus Rift VR technology, and a new implementation of the Virtual Hand Illusion, we systematically manipulated visual form plausibility, visualtextendashtactile synchrony, and visualtextendashproprioceptive spatial offset to explore their influence on self-representation. Our results show that these cues differentially influence embodiment, agency, and presence. We provide evidence that each type of cue can independently and non-hierarchically influence self-representation yet none of these cues strictly constrains or gates the influence of the others. We discuss theoretical implications for understanding self-representation as well as practical implications for VR experiment design, including the suitability of consumer-based VR technology in research settings.

Publication
Frontiers in Psychology, (7), pp. 1649, https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2016.01649