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Hum Factors. 2007 Dec;49(6):1054-60.

Social facilitation effects of virtual humans.

Author information

1
School of Psychology, Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta 30332-0170, USA. gtg116s@mail.gatech.edu

Abstract

OBJECTIVE:

To investigate whether virtual humans produce social facilitation effects.

BACKGROUND:

When people do an easy task and another person is nearby, they tend to do that task better than when they are alone. Conversely, when people do a hard task and another person is nearby, they tend to do that task less well than when they are alone. This phenomenon is referred to in the social psychology literature as social facilitation. The present study investigated whether virtual humans can evoke a social facilitation response.

METHOD:

Participants were given different tasks to do that varied in difficulty. The tasks involved anagrams, mazes, and modular arithmetic. They did the tasks alone, in the company of another person, or in the company of a virtual human on a computer screen.

RESULTS:

For easy tasks, performance in the virtual human condition was better than in the alone condition, and for difficult tasks, performance in the virtual human condition was worse than in the alone condition.

CONCLUSION:

As with a human, virtual humans can produce social facilitation.

APPLICATION:

The results suggest that designers of virtual humans should be mindful about the social nature of virtual humans; a design decision as to when and how to present a virtual human should be a deliberate and informed decision. An ever-present virtual human might make learning and performance difficult for challenging tasks.

PMID:
18074704
DOI:
10.1518/001872007X249910
[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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