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COMPUTER ANIMATION AND VIRTUAL WORLDS Comp Anim Virtual Worlds 2010 Published online in Wiley InterScience www interscience wiley com DOI 10 1002 cav 345 Virtual humans elicit socially anxious interactants verbal self disclosure By Sin Hwa Kang and Jonathan Gratch We explored the relationship between interactants social anxiety and the interactional delity of virtual humans We speci cally addressed whether the contingent non verbal feedback of virtual humans affects the association between interactants social anxiety and their verbal self disclosure This subject was investigated across three experimental conditions where participants interacted with real human videos and virtual humans in computer mediated interview interactions The results demonstrated that socially anxious people revealed more information and greater intimate information about themselves when interacting with a virtual human when compared with real human video interaction whereas less socially anxious people did not show this difference We discuss the implication of this association between the interactional delity of virtual humans and social anxiety in a human interactant on the design of an embodied virtual agent for social skills training and psychotherapy Copyright 2010 John Wiley Sons Ltd KEY WORDS virtual humans social anxiety self disclosure contingent non verbal feedback rapport virtual agents anonymity evaluation Introduction There are numerous studies on the application of virtual humans toward the problems of social skills training and psychotherapy A predominantly interesting application of the technology is in helping people who have problems functioning normally through a variety of social disorders in social situations such as treating social phobias 1 2 or autism spectrum disorder 3 4 In this sense virtual humans can be proposed to facilitate social interactions among people who have dif culty in shaping social relationships or help improve their social skills via virtual practice In existing work virtual humans and interactive virtual environments have been studied as promising therapeutic approaches for psycho social disorders such as social anxiety Herbelin 5 reports that virtual reality VR exposure therapy has shown empirical success in treating social phobias although current systems have been facing many technical and theoretical limitations as well as dealing with restrictive social situations The studies conducted on such systems have Correspondence to S H Kang Institute for Creative Technologies University of Southern California 13274 Fiji Way CA 90292 USA E mail kang ict usc edu primarily focused on investigating the effect of interfaces e g head mounted vs desktop displays appearances photo real vs cartoonish characters and simple motor behaviours e g eye gaze patterns or random body motions on interactants feeling of being together and connected co presence Such research has not explored virtual humans that are able to respond to human interactants



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