Arguably one of the most important characteristics of virtual reality (VR) is its ability to induce higher feelings of presence. Still, research has remained inconclusive on how presence is affected by human factors such as emotion and agency. Here we adopt a novel design to investigate their effects by testing virtual environments inducing either happiness or fear, with or without user agency. Results from 121 participants showed that the dominant emotion induced by a virtual environment is positively correlated with presence. In addition, agency had a significant positive effect on presence and, furthermore, moderated the effect of emotion on presence. We show for the first time that the effects of emotion and agency on presence are not straightforward but they can be modelled by separating design factors from subjective measures. We discuss how these findings can explain seemingly conflicting results of related work and their implications for VR design.
Crescent Jicol, Chun Hin Wan, Benjamin Doling, Caitlin H Illingworth, Jinha Yoon, Charlotte Headey, Christof Lutteroth, Michael Proulx, Karin Petrini, Eamonn O’Neill