The Effects of Self-and External Perception of Avatars on Cognitive Task Performance in Virtual Reality

Martin Kocur, Philipp Schauhuber, Valentin Schwind, Christian Wolff, Niels Henze

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingsConference contributionpeer-review

30 Citations (Scopus)


Virtual reality (VR) allows embodying any possible avatar. Known as the Proteus effect, avatars can change users' behavior and attitudes. Previous work found that embodying Albert Einstein can increase cognitive task performance. The behavioral confirmation paradigm, however, predicts that our behavior is also affected by others' perception of us. Therefore, we investigated the cognitive performance in collaborative VR when self-perception and external perception of the own avatar differ. 32 male participants performed a Tower of London task in pairs. One participant embodied Einstein or a young adult while the other perceived the participant as Einstein or a young adult. We show that the perception by others affects cognitive performance. The Einstein avatar also decreased the perceived workload. Results imply that avatars' appearance to both, the user and the others must be considered when designing for cognitively demanding tasks.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings - VRST 2020
Subtitle of host publicationACM Symposium on Virtual Reality Software and Technology
EditorsStephen N. Spencer
Number of pages11
ISBN (Electronic)9781450376198
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2020
Externally publishedYes

Publication series

NameProceedings of the ACM Symposium on Virtual Reality Software and Technology, VRST


  • Proteus effect
  • avatar embodiment
  • body ownership
  • cognitive performance
  • virtual reality


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