Virtual character personality influences participant attitudes and behavior – an interview with a virtual human character about her social anxiety

Pan, Xueni; Gillies, Marco and Slater, Mel. 2015. Virtual character personality influences participant attitudes and behavior – an interview with a virtual human character about her social anxiety. Frontiers in Robotics and AI, 2, 1. ISSN 2296-9144 [Article]

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Abstract or Description

We introduce a novel technique for the study of human–virtual character interaction in immersive virtual reality. The human participants verbally administered a standard questionnaire about social anxiety to a virtual female character, which responded to each question through speech and body movements. The purpose was to study the extent to which participants responded differently to characters that exhibited different personalities, even though the verbal content of their answers was always the same. A separate online study provided evidence that our intention to create two different personality types had been successful. In the main between-groups experiment that utilized a Cave system there were 24 male participants, where 12 interacted with a female virtual character portrayed to exhibit shyness and the remaining 12 with an identical but more confident virtual character. Our results indicate that although the content of the verbal responses of both virtual characters was the same, participants showed different subjective and behavioral responses to the two different personalities. In particular participants evaluated the shy character more positively, for example, expressing willingness to spend more time with her. Participants evaluated the confident character more negatively and waited for a significantly longer time to call her back after she had left the scene in order to answer a telephone call. The method whereby participants interviewed the virtual character allowed naturalistic conversation while avoiding the necessity of speech processing and generation, and natural language understanding. It is therefore a useful method for the study of the impact of virtual character personality on participant responses.

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Additional Information:

This work was supported by EPSRC grant Empathic Virtual character EP/D505542/1 and Visual and Behavioral Fidelity of Virtual Humans EP/F030355/1, and Mel Slater’s Advanced ERC Grant TRAVERSE (#227985).


personality, virtual human, social anxiety, virtual reality, character

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10 February 2015Published Online
February 2015Published
27 January 2015Accepted

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Date Deposited:

03 Mar 2015 12:01

Last Modified:

03 Aug 2021 15:05

Peer Reviewed:

Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.


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