Exploring the Relationship Between Attribute Discrepancy and Avatar Embodiment in Immersive Social Virtual Reality

Cyberpsychol Behav Soc Netw. 2023 Oct 18. doi: 10.1089/cyber.2023.0210. Online ahead of print.


Social virtual reality (VR) is an emerging set of platforms where users interact while embodying avatars. Given that VR headsets track real physical movements and map them onto one's avatar body, the nature of one's digital representation is an important aspect of social VR. However, little is known about how the visual proximity of an avatar to the self shapes user experience in naturalistic, social VR environments. In this article, we use this context to explore how embodiment is influenced by the perceived differences between the physical attributes of a user and the virtual attributes of their avatar. We selected a number of attributes for this measure that have been shown to be important for customization and representation in VR. Participants created an avatar, spent time in social VR, and reported on their experience in a questionnaire. Our results demonstrate a significant negative association between attribute discrepancy and avatar embodiment, the psychological experience of one's virtual body as their own body. We discuss implications for theories of self-representation and suggest urgency on the part of games and VR designers to improve the methods of creating avatars.

Keywords: avatar customization; avatar embodiment; avatars; social VR; virtual reality.