Causal perception in virtual reality and its implications for presence factors

M. O. (Marc) Cavazza, J-L. (Jean-Luc) Lugrin, M. (Marc) Buehner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Original languageEnglish
JournalPresence: Teleoperators and Virtual Environments
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 2007

Bibliographical note

Causality is an important aspect of how we construct reality. Yet, while many psychological phenomena have been studied in their relation to virtual reality (VR), very little work has been dedicated specifically to causal perception, despite its potential relevance for user interaction and presence. In this paper, we describe the development of a virtual environment supporting experiments with causal perception. The system, inspired from psychological data, operates by intercepting events in the virtual world, so as to create artificial co-occurrences between events and their subsequent effects. After recognizing high-level events and formalizing them with a symbolic representation inspired from robotics planning, it modifies the events' effects using knowledge-based operators. The re-activation of the modified events creates co-occurrences inducing causal impressions in the user. We conducted experiments with fifty-three subjects who had to interact with virtual world objects and were presented with alternative consequences for their actions, generated by the system using various levels of plausibility. At the same time, these subjects had to answer ten items from the Presence Questionnaire corresponding mainly to control and realism factors: causal perception appears to have a positive impact on these items. The implications of this work are twofold: first, causal perception can provide an interesting experimental setting for some presence determinants, and second, the elicitation of causal impressions can become part of VR technologies to provide new forms of VR experiences.

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