Strategic Behavioral Transformations in Immersive Collaborative Virtual Environments

Jeremy Bailenson, Stanford Communication Dept

Seminar on People, Computers, and Design
Stanford University September 26, 2003

Over time, our mode of remote communication has evolved from written letters to telephones, email, internet chat rooms, and videoconferences. Similarly, collaborative virtual environments (CVEs) promise to further change the nature of remote interaction. CVEs are systems which track verbal and nonverbal signals of multiple interactants and render those signals onto avatars, three-dimensional, digital representations of people in a shared digital space. In this talk, I describe a series of projects that explore the manners in which CVEs can qualitatively change the nature of remote communication. Unlike telephone conversations and videoconferences, interactants in CVEs have the ability to systematically filter the physical appearance and behavioral actions of their avatars in the eyes of their conversational partners, amplifying or suppressing features and nonverbal signals in real-time for strategic purposes. These transformations can have a drastic impact on interactants' persuasive and instructional abilities. Furthermore, using CVEs, behavioral researchers can use this mismatch between performed and perceived behavior as a tool to examine complex patterns of nonverbal behavior with nearly perfect experimental control and great precision. Implications for communications systems, marketing strategies, and behavioral science research will be discussed..

Jeremy Bailenson received his Ph.D. in Cognitive Psychology from Northwestern University in 2000, where he developed a mathematical model of persuasive argumentation as well as studied cultural differences in reasoning and categorization. For the next four years he worked as a Post-Doctoral Fellow in the Research Center for Virtual Environments and Behavior at the University of California, Santa Barbara, studying nonverbal behavior in Immersive Virtual Reality (IVR). Currently, he is an assistant professor in the Department of Communication at Stanford University. His research is funded by the National Science Foundation.


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