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Title: Experimental studies of the interaction between people and virtual humans with a focus on social anxiety
Author: Pan, X.
ISNI:       0000 0004 2727 5813
Awarding Body: University College London (University of London)
Current Institution: University College London (University of London)
Date of Award: 2010
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Psychotherapy has been one of the major applications of Virtual Reality technology; examples include fear of flying, heights, spiders, and post‐traumatic stress disorder. Virtual reality has been shown to be useful, in the context of exposure therapy for the treatment of social anxiety, such as fear of public speaking, where the clients learn how to conquer their anxiety through interactions with Virtual Characters (avatars). This thesis is concerned with the interaction between human participants and avatars in a Virtual Environment (VE), with the main focus being on Social Anxiety. It is our hypothesis that interactions between people and avatars can evoke in people behaviours that correspond to their degree of social anxiety or confidence. Moreover the responses of people to avatars will also depend on their degree of exhibited social anxiety – they will react differently to a shy avatar compared to a confident avatar. The research started with an experimental study on the reaction of shy and confident male volunteers to an approach by an attractive and friendly virtual woman in a VE. The results show that the participants responded according to expectations towards the avatar at an emotional, physiological, and behavioural level. The research then studied a particular cue which represents shyness – “blushing”. Experiments were carried out on how participant responds towards a blushing avatar. The results suggested that, even without consciously noticing the avatar’s blushing, the participants had an improved relationship with her when she was blushing. Finally, the research further investigated how people respond towards a shy avatar as opposed to a confident one. The results show that participants gave more positive comments to the personality of the avatar displaying signs of shyness.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available