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At a time of increased social usage of net and collaborative applications, a robust and detailed theory of social presence could contribute to our understanding of social behavior in mediated environments, allow researchers to predict and measure differences among media interfaces, and guide the design of new social environments and interfaces. A broader theory of social presence can guide more valid and reliable measures. The article reviews, classifies, and critiques existing theories and measures of social presence. A set of criteria and scope conditions is proposed to help remedy limitations in past theories and measures and to provide a contribution to a more robust theory and measure of social presence.
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Social Presence 1
Towards A More Robust Theory and Measure of Social Presence:
Review and Suggested Criteria
Frank Biocca
Chad Harms
Judee K. Burgoon
Media Interface & Network Design (M.I.N.D.) Lab
Michigan State University
East Lansing, MI 48824
Media Interface & Network Design (M.I.N.D.) Lab
Human Communication Research,
Center for the Management of Information,
University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ 85721
Biocca, F., Harms, C., & Burgoon, J. (2003). Towards a more robust theory and measure of 
social presence: Review and suggested criteria. Presence: Teleoperators and virtual 
environments. Manuscript. Published version may differ slightly.
Towards A More Robust Theory and Measure of Social Presence:
Review And Suggested Criteria
At a time of increased social usage of net and collaborative applications a
robust and detailed theory of social presence could contribute to our
understanding of social behavior in mediated environments, allow
researchers to predict and measure differences among media interfaces, and
guide the design of new social environments and interfaces. A broader theory
of social presence can guide more valid and reliable measures. The article
reviews, classifies, and critiques existing theories and measures of social
presence. A set of criteria and scope conditions is proposed to help remedy
limitations in past theories and measures and to provide a contribution to a
more robust theory and measure of social presence.
Human-computer interaction, computer-mediated communication,
nonverbal communication, new media, communication technology, virtual
The Experience of “Being with Another” in Networked Environments.
A great deal of networked communication can be described essentially as: a
person using a medium to be with another. A set of pixels shaped like a smiling
face, a voice crackling through a speaker, or a line of text emerging on a chat room
screen create the sense of “being with another.” Research on physical presence
explores this sense of “being in the virtual place,” focusing on ways in which the
senses and our actions create a sense of space. But what of the sense “being
together,” the most essential part of this mediated interaction between two
people? How does the medium filter and affect our representation of the other
during a mediated social interaction? Beyond the “sense of the place” that physical
presence measures, there is the “sense of being with another,” or quite essentially,
the “sense of another through a medium.”
To begin it might be useful prior to exploring definitions of social presence in
greater detail, to provisionally define social presence succinctly as the “sense of
being with another.” This other can be either a human or artificial intelligence.
Within human-computer interaction social presence theory studies how the “sense
of being with another” is shaped and affected by interfaces. These others that we
experience are primarily technologically mediated representations of other humans
or forms of intelligence including mediated representations of remote humans via
text, images, video, 3D avatars and in artificial representations of humanoid or
animal-like intelligence including virtual human agents, computers, and robots.
Techniques of designing representations of others to evoke social presence
have a long history going back to the first stone sculpture to evoke a sense of
some other being in the mind of an ancestral observer. Media representations and
techniques have been progressively designed over time to activate these social
responses (Reeves and Nass, 1996). Increasing the experience of social presence
is repeatedly the design goal of various types of hardware and software engineering
in areas such as high bandwidth teleconferencing systems (Lanier, 2001), speech
interfaces (Yankelovich, Levow et al., 1995), social robots (Brooks 1999; Brooks,
2002), and embodied agents (Cassell, Sullivan et al., 2000).
Although understanding social presence is sometimes the goal of research
where this concept is employed, more frequently social presence research is a
means to explore some aspect of technology or the effects of technology.
Communication and human-computer interaction researchers are typically
interested in social presence because it may mediate the effects of other variables
of central concern to the researcher such as attitudes towards the mediated
others, features of the interface, persuasion, illusions of reality, learning and
memory, and mental health (Bailenson, 2001; Choi, 2000; Nowak, submitted;
Turkle, 1997).
The need for a well-explicated theory arises not only because researchers
need to understand the role of social presence in human-to-human and human-
computer interaction, but also because continued research in this area needs to
bring conceptual clarity to what is currently a rather amorphous set of variables,
many of which are being equated or conflated with social presence. Moreover, if we
better understand social presence, then this may guide ways to operationalize it
such that it is an empirical variable amenable to reliable and valid measurement.
Thus, development of a systematic theory will in turn enable development of
appropriate measures of social presence as conceptualized. Valid measures can be
selected and differentiated from measures of other concepts.
In this article, we review the state of social presence theory and
measurement and propose some criteria and scope conditions for a useable theory
and measure of social presence. We hope this analysis and the criteria proposed
can contribute to the development of a theory that is sufficiently large in scope, but
also delimited so as to predict, explain, control and operationalize social presence.
In the sections that follow we will:
Discuss three areas of HCI research where social presence theory and
measurement can advance research.
Provide a review, classification of dimensions, and critique of current definitions
of social presence.
Review and assess current measures of social presence.
Propose criteria, scope conditions, and example scenarios to that a theory of
social presence would need to explain and measure.
Examples where a more robust theory and measure social presence
advance research.
Why develop a theory and measurement of social presence? Where might it
be useful? A useable theory and measure of social presence might provide a key
contribution to three problem areas in networked computing.
1. Using social presence theory to explore the design goals, social motivations of
users, properties, and effects of telecommunication systems.
The Internet is a social place. Because of growth in our telecommunication
infrastructure (, 2001), many relationships and more and more
interactions with others are mediated by the telecommunication system.
Increasing network bandwidth, higher mobility, and more immersive designs
promise to offer a better sense of access to real and virtual places, i.e., the sense
of telepresence. But the use of this bandwidth will rarely be focused on visiting
places, virtual ghost towns devoid of other interactants. More fundamentally, most
telecommunication bandwidth is used to gain satisfying and productive access to
others, the thoughts, emotions, and presence of real and virtual humans (e.g. the
internet, Pew, 2002; the telephone, Fischer, 1988). Because we are social beings,
a common purpose of physical presence is to increase the sense of social presence
either as an end in itself or accomplish a task involving many inputs.
Research in organizational communication indicates that media may be
selected to better accommodate activities affected by social presence (Rice and
Case, 1983; Steinfield, 1986; Palmer, 1995). Users may sometimes use media to
modulate social presence for a wide range of activities including getting to know
someone, exchanging information or goods, problem solving and making decisions,
exchanging opinions, generating ideas, resolving conflicts, or maintaining friendly
2. Use of social presence measures to assess the performance of “social presence”
Successive generations of emerging networked interfaces are designed to
mediate social communication with remote others. These communication systems
and interfaces are progressively designed to improve human communication for
collaborative work (Weiming, 2001), education (Hazemi and Hailes 2001; Steeples
and Jones, 2002), social services, or e-commerce (Save, Guazzelli et al., 2001).
While all these technologies are varied they share a common goal: Most of these
technologies are designed, engineered, and manufactured to increase social
presence. For the purpose of this article we will refer to technologies that are
primarily intended to increase real time social interaction as social presence
technologies. Examples of evolving social presence technologies include:
Collaborative work environments: Work environments are characterized by
increased use of varied mediated work interactions (e.g., Churchill, Snowdon et
al., 2001; Coovert and Thompson, 2001) that supplement or substitute face-
to-face interaction. There appears to be accompanying growth in
telecommunication infrastructure to support this interaction (,
Mobile and wireless telecommunication: Mobile systems increasingly offer
promise of continuous social contact across space and time via multimodal
access (Brown, Green et al., 2001) and the sensory and social presence of that
access is increasing via mobile video telephony and other message systems.
High-bandwidth teleconferencing interfaces: i.e., teleimmersive simulations of
face-to-face and augmented social interactions (e.g., Lanier, 2001).
Agent-based e-commerce and help interfaces: An increasing number of quasi-
social relationships with new forms of artificially intelligent beings, such as
computers themselves and intelligent agents that inhabit virtual environments,
that act as “office assistants,” guides on websites, characters in social 3D virtual
environments, and team members or opponents in computer games (Petrie,
1996; Reeves and Nass, 1996; Chorafas, 1997; Franklin, 1997; Kushmerick,
1997; Cassell, Sullivan et al., 2000).
Speech interfaces: Simulations of human speech and social interaction with the
computer (e.g., Yankelovich, Levow et al., 1995).
3D social virtual environments: Fully mediated, social interaction in computer
graphic bodies including a full range of social interaction and contacts (Fischer,
1988; Munro, Höök et al., 1999; Singhal and Zyda, 1999; Schroeder, 2001).
Evaluation of these systems typically must answer a version of the question:
How well do these systems work? Although the answer to this question might take
a technical form, the answer is largely social psychological in nature. It might take
the form of the following questions: How well did one person feel connected to
another through an interface? What was the appropriate level of interaction for the
task? Did the user feel socially and psychologically connected to an intelligent
“other” when interacting with the virtual human agent? In essence, the assessment
of satisfaction with entertainment systems and with productive performance in
teleconferencing and collaborative virtual environments is based largely on the
quality of the social presence they afford.
Typically claims made for the development of social presence technologies
tend to emphasize some “good,” that is a positive social or communication
outcome. But a moment’s reflection suggests that we might not want to equate
social presence with all things good and kind. For example, increased social
presence can also be a hindrance and can make people vulnerable to manipulation,
deception, mindless processing, and so forth. The former executive director of Bell
Labs, Bob Lucky, imagined the need for a “social presence dial” that could dial social
presence up or down - up for a loved one or down for a salesperson (Moyers,
1990). This underlines the often-repeated caution that “more is not always good.”
3. Social presence research may be means of exploring the larger issues in
theories of mind, social cognition, and interpersonal communication.
Unlike the physical environment, social communication in virtual
environments might be built upon minimal or constrained social cues. Animated
characters and even the computer interface itself can generate strong automatic
social responses from minimal social cues. Social responses to computer
characters for example, are generated even though the user is quite aware that the
computer is not an emotional or social agent but a machine. Such virtual
environments are an experimental setting to explore the limits of human social
responses and the effects of various cues (Reeves and Nass, 1996; Loomis,
Blascovich et al., 1998; Blascovich, 2001).
Like presence, social presence is presumed to have its foundation in
psychological mechanisms that have evolved for and are active during un-mediated
interactions (Premack and Premack, 1996). A strong theory of social presence
might also provide us with insight into how people automatically respond to social
cues and generate simulations or mental models of “other minds” from the physical
and communication cues provided by the bodies and actions of others (Gordon,
1986; Dennett, 1987; Carruthers and Smith, 1996; Dennett, 1996; Premack and
Premack, 1996).
Finally, a theory of social presence may yield insights into the nature of
nonverbal and interpersonal communication. By addressing issues of what essential
attributes are needed to establish connection with others, we may arrive at a
better understanding of how humans arrive at that sense of mutuality that
underpins all communication between people and that is a prerequisite to
establishing common ground. It may also focus attention on how nonverbal
behaviors, many of which harken back to primordial urges and instincts, function to
define and maintain interpersonal relationships.
Current Definitions and Conceptualizations of Social Presence
Presence is frequently presented as consisting of two interrelated
phenomena (Heeter, 1992; Biocca and Levy, 1995; Biocca, 1997):
telepresence, the phenomenal sense of “being there” including automatic
responses to spatial cues and the mental models of mediated spaces that
create the illusion of place;
social presence, the sense of “being together with another” including primitive
responses to social cues, simulations of “other minds,” and automatically-
generated models of the intentionality of others (i.e., people, animals, agents,
gods, etc.)
Because the social presence of the other is mediated by telecommunication
technology, it might be more accurately described as mediated social presence or
social telepresence. In keeping with tradition in this area (Short, Williams et al.,
1976; Heeter, 1992; Palmer, 1995) we will use the label “social presence”
specifically to mean interactions in mediated environments, even though the phrase
also applies to non-mediated interactions (Soussignan and Schaal, 1996; Huguet,
Galvaing et al., 1999).
The problems of how to define, measure, and control levels of physical
presence and social presence via interface design have become both challenging
and practical problems in communication theory (Palmer, 1995; Lauria, 1997;
Lombard and Ditton, 1997; Biocca, in press), virtual environment design (Short,
Williams et al., 1976; Held and Durlach, 1992; Barfield, 1995), and in psychological
measurement of user responses to virtual environments (Draper and Blair, 1996;
Ellis, 1996; Ellis, Dorighi et al., 1997; Freeman, 1998; Ijsselsteijn, 1998;
Ijsselsteijn and de Ridder, 1998; Murray, Arnold et al., 1998; Witmer and Singer,
1998; Slater, 1999; Lombard, Ditton et al., 2000; IJsselsteijn, de Ridder et al.,
2000, January; Lessiter, Freeman et al., 2000, March; Ijsselsteinjn et al., 2001;
Novak, Hoffman et al., May 1998).
Although we defined social presence as “a sense of being with another” in the
virtual environment, we consider this definition a tentative, but useful, shorthand.
By the end of the article we hope to show that this typical definition may not be
inadequate for the explication and measurement of social presence.
Before we review definitions of social presence, it is valuable to note that a
number of theories of social presence have roots in symbolic interactionism
(Blumer, 1969) and social psychological theories of interpersonal communication.
The term “social presence” in the context of mediated communication may have
emerged in the work of Short, Williams and Christie in the 1970s (Short, Williams et
al., 1976). In effort to define a social psychology of telecommunication they may
have extended the use of a term that was used in social psychology to describe the
behavioral effects of the physical presence of another human being or the thought
that another human being is in position to observe. This physical “social presence”
was conceptualized simply as “another person is perceived as present or absent.”
Only in the telecommunication context did this notion of presence or absence
become problematic. For Short et al., it was no longer binary, but more of a
continuum where mediated others could be more or less present. For this, they
may have been influenced by Goffman’s notion of “co-presence,” which we discuss
in greater detail.
The influence of classic social psychologist, George Herbert Mead (Mead and
Moris, 1934) can be seen in the earliest formulations of mediated social presence
especially on the notion that the other is a symbolic construction created through
interaction. A central concept for symbolic interactionism was the concept of the
“generalized other,” which was in part an abstraction from one’s interactions with
all physical others. Symbolic interactionism emphasized that symbolic
representations were central to all social phenomena, that models of the other
contributed to our conceptualizations of the social and helped form the self. In their
seminal book on the social psychology of telecommunication, Short, et al. (Short,
Williams et al., 1976) drew directly on intellectual currents influenced by this social
psychological tradition, such as the work of Argyle (Argyle, 1965; Argyle, 1969;
Argyle, 1975; Argyle and Cook, 1976), Birdwhistell (Birdwhistell, 1970), and
Mehrabian (Mehrabian, 1972) on the role of nonverbal communication in
interpersonal interaction. For Short, Williams & Christie this theoretical foundation
provided a lens through which interaction via teleconferencing systems and other
media could be viewed, explained, and understood. The theoretical origins guided
the emphasis of early social presence theories on: (a) awareness of and the
representation of the other, (b) the medium’s capacity for social interaction and,
specifically, (c) the presence or absence of verbal or non-verbal cues in mediated
Definitions of social presence
While definitions of social presence vary, they cluster around key approaches
or dimensions. See Table 1 for outline of review of social presence definitions and
theories presented below.
Insert Table 1 here.
Non-definitional formulations of social presence
Let us begin with examples of “un-problematic” or “non-definitional”
approaches to social presence. Researchers in the area of presence might be little
surprised to find that for some social psychologists, the concept of social presence
is defined in a simple and unproblematic manner. One can easily find recent social
psychological studies that prominently feature social presence in their titles, but
where social presence itself is largely under theorized (Soussignan and Schaal,
1996; Huguet, Galvaing et al., 1999). In these studies of unmediated interactions,
social presence is treated as self-evident: the other simply is or is not present. This
binary “non-definition” is used. The key limitation of this approach is that social
presence is not seen as a continuum. On the other hand, there is research going
back almost sixty years that indicates that the mere thought of someone else in
other room or the suggestion that someone is watching has influence on behavior
(Dashiell, 1935; Wapner and Alper, 1952). Note that this social presence is not a
physical fact, but a psychological one. The “perceived presence” or another triggers
significant psychological effects on behavior.
Are there different degrees of the “presence” of another? Theories clustered
around the concept of “co-presence” have tended to see what we are calling
mediated social presence as problematic. The mediated other is not simply “here or
not-here,” but is present to a lesser or greater degree along some definable
continuum. Some early researchers in interpersonal communication argued that
even in unmediated interactions, the simple binary, here-not here conceptualization
of social presence is unsatisfactory. Nowhere is this made more obvious than in the
seminal work of the social psychologist, Erving Goffman (Goffman, 1959;
Goffman, 1963).
Sensory awareness of the embodied other. Goffman provides an example of
a more subtle theoretical analysis of what he called “copresence.” The concept of
co-presence is grounded on the basic sensory awareness of other.
First, sight begins to take on an added and special role. Each individual can
see that he is being experienced in some way, and he will guide at least some
of his conduct according to the perceived identity and initial response of his
audience. Further, he can be seen to be seeing this, and can see that he has
been seen seeing this. Ordinarily, then, to use our naked senses is to use
them nakedly and to be made naked by their use. (Goffman, 1959), p.16
Emphasis on the senses makes this approach very amenable to mediated
interaction. In mediated interactions the senses of the user are extended to some
degree by the technology. The representation of the other makes some minimal or
intense level of sensory impression. Goffman makes the additional point that the
co-presence “implies the reception of embodied messages” (p. 15). The body of
the other is a key medium. In mediated interactions the other is frequently
embodied by some avatar, agent, or simpler representational device (Cassell,
Sullivan et al., 2000).
Even though he focuses on un-mediated perception, Goffman sees each
sensory channel as a medium for experiencing social presence. He is also sensitive
to the fact that social presence is influenced by subtle properties of the
environment in which the interaction takes place:
The physical distance over which one person can experience another with the
naked senses-thereby finding that the other is “within range”-varies
according to many factors: the sense medium involved, the presence of
obstructions, even the temperature of the air. (p. 17).
In definitions that emphasize being in the same space, the notion of co-
presence shares some properties with physical presence. A number of researchers
use some variation of social presence as the notion of being in the same location,
space, room, etc. (Mason, 1994; McLeod, Baron et al., 1997; Sallnas, Rassmus-
grohn et al., 2000).
Goffman’s sensory motor approach to the conceptualization of co-presence
provides him with the basis for a subtle, elaborated, and developed approached to
social interaction. Even though it dates back to 1960s and is focused on face-to-
face interaction, Goffman’s emphasis on the sensory accessibility of the embodied
other can be found explicitly in some social presence work (Biocca and Nowak,
1999; Nowak and Biocca, 1999; Biocca and Nowak, 2001; Nowak and Biocca,
Mutual awareness. Goffman and others extend the notion of co-presence
beyond just “being in the same place” to include the attentional issues of mutual
awareness: “copresence renders persons uniquely accessible, available, and subject
to one another” (p.22). The definitions of co-presence move into mutual
awareness when they emphasize attention to the sensory properties of the other,
especially an awareness of both user/observer and mediated other. The user is
aware of the mediated other, and the other is aware of the user. In Heeter’s
(Heeter, 1992) definition, awareness of the “existence of the other” is
accompanied by the other’s reaction to the self or user. In these definitions the
reaction of the other to the user validates that “they are there” and aware, and
reflects the intellectual origins in symbolic interactionism, especially in the notion
that the self is defined by the generalized other’s reaction.
This tends to flow directly into broader, if somewhat loosely explicated
versions of co-presence that simply suggest mutual awareness with the phrase
“being together” (de Greef and IJsselsteijn, 2000; Ho, Basdogan et al., 1998). In
this sense, two users are aware of each other in a virtual space and that mutual
awareness is the essence of social presence.
Psychological Involvement
The simple presence of another body or even awareness of it may be
satisfactory to signify some minimal level of physical co-presence. But does this
capture all that most researchers mean by social presence? Let us take an extreme
example. It is clear that a corpse may be physically present, but not socially
present. Although the case extreme, this example may be to the point. In virtual
environments there can be many inert bodies, representations that are not
“inhabited” by intelligence, human or artificial virtual entities that are more like
sculptures than beings, all form with no “spirit” or “intelligence” (agency) within
them. So just the co-presence of a body may not be a good definitional basis for
social presence, but rather the body is a set of cues for an “intelligence” that
animates it. In theories that emphasize psychological involvement, social presence
hinges more on ones models of the other intelligence.
Therefore, some definitions extend social presence slightly beyond the notion
of awareness to suggest the importance of an element sometimes labeled
psychological involvement. Unfortunately, the concept “involvement” has a very
broad use within theories of communication, persuasion, and social psychology. It
can range in meaning of little more than focused attention to the more elaborate
psychological dynamics of relationships. Below we attempt to classify the various
nuances of this general definitional approach to social presence.
Sense of access to intelligence. Some researchers (Biocca, 1997) have
suggested that a key defining element of a theory of social presence is observers
modeling of the intentional states of the other (Dennett, 1987; Dennett, 1996). In
a definitional approach that seeks to connect both mediated and un-mediated
approaches, the body be it virtual or physical - is conceptualized as a medium
that provides cues to the intentional states of another. The actions of the body
provide cues as to the states of the intelligence animating the body. The approach,
therefore, suggests that social presence is definable by the sense that one has
“access to another intelligence” (Biocca, 1997). For example in Biocca (1997),
social presence is activated as soon as a user believes that an entity in the
environment displays some minimal intelligence in its reactions to the environment
and the user. This definition seeks to accommodate human-to-human social
interaction as well the social interactions that have been documented with common
computer interfaces (Reeves and Nass, 1996). Cognitive states associated with
social presence may inevitably involve some form of mental model of the other. In
the context of social presence theory, Biocca and his colleagues (Biocca, 1997;
Nowak, 2000; Biocca and Nowak, 2001; Nowak and Biocca, 2001) have
emphasized that a substantial mental model of the other is activated immediately
upon detection of behavior that suggests the presence of another intelligence. Like
the primitive activation of approach and avoidance reactions, some modeling is
necessary to reduce the uncertainty and to model the intentions of the other
towards the environment and the user.
Salience of the interpersonal relationship. Short, Williams and Christie (Short,
Williams et al., 1976) suggest some level of psychological involvement beyond
attention by including in their definition of social presence: “The degree of salience
of the other person in the interaction and the consequent salience of the
interpersonal relationships…it is a subjective quality of the communications
medium…”(p. 65). Salience of the other was both an “attitudinal dimension of the
user, a ‘mental set’ towards the medium” (p.65), but also “it is phenomenological
variable…affected not simply by the transmission of single nonverbal cues, but by
whole constellations of cues which affect the ‘apparent distance’ of the other.”
Intimacy and immediacy. Rice emphasizes this aspect of psychological
involvement by echoing Short, Williams and Christie’s classic social psychological
claim that social presence “is fundamentally related to two social psychology
concepts; intimacy and immediacy” (Rice, 1993), (p. 72). This work emphasized
more social theories of social presence focused on “media appropriateness” (Rice,
1993). These concepts are applied to media from the social psychological work of
Argyle (Argyle, 1965; Argyle, 1969; Argyle, 1975; Argyle and Cook, 1976) and
Mehrabian (Mehrabian, 1972) on the role of nonverbal communication in
interpersonal interaction.
In a similar fashion, Palmer links presence to aspects of psychological
involvement with the other:
Although these terms (immediacy, intimacy and involvement) are typically
used to describe behaviors, it is not difficult to imagine that they also
describe a cognitive state in which individuals feel more or less directly
‘present’ in the interaction and in the process by which relationships are being
created (Palmer, 1995, p.284).
Mutual understanding. Most mediated social interactions occur over time,
therefore the mental model of the other and the sense of social presence must be
evolving and not fixed. The logic suggests that there should evolve some sense
that the observer has some understanding of the other. In cases of higher social
presence this understanding might be mutual. For Savicki (Savicki and Kelley, 2000)
the definition of social presence emphasizes the ability to project a sense of self
through the limitations of a medium. Emphasizing this dimension of social presence,
Nowak (Nowak, 2000) used the measure of “homophilly,” or perceived similarity in
emotions and attitudes, to measure social presence. Implied in this approach is
some level of mutual understanding negotiated through the limitations of a
Behavioral engagement
Social interaction involves behavior. Some definitions of social presence
include implicit or explicit references to some level of behavioral engagement,
especially behavioral interaction or synchronization either as the essence or an
indicator of social presence. The emphasis on interactive behavior is a more recent
component of social presence theories. Most social presence research, until the
mid-1990s, dealt primarily with low bandwidth media, textual media, or
teleconferencing systems (e.g., Short, Williams et al., 1976; Steinfield, 1986; Rice
and Love, 1987; Rice, 1992; Walther, 1992; Walther and Burgoon, 1992; Rice,
1993; Walther, Anderson et al., 1994; Rice and Tyler, 1995; Walther, 1996;
Tidwell and Walther, 2000). Therefore, behavioral variation was limited and rarely
extended beyond text-based verbal behavior and a narrow range of non-verbal
communication behaviors. Most tasks such as text chat were highly symbolic and
relied heavily on verbal interaction. Nonetheless, while social presence like presence
itself is largely a phenomenal state, it is sometimes defined as including a behavioral
component. Reference is made to levels of behavioral engagement such as eye
contract, non-verbal mirroring, turn taking, etc.
Immersive virtual environments and computer games opened a much wider
range of potential channels for behavioral interaction. Writing in the context of VR,
Palmer’s (1995) definition of social presence builds on Heeter’s (1992) emphasis
on reaction and interactivity. These seem to acknowledge the desire to include a
behavioral component in the definition. For Palmer, the definition of social presence
includes “effectively negotiate(ing) a relationship through an interdependent, multi-
channel exchange of behaviors” (Palmer, 1995, p. 291).
Measures of Social Presence
Measures are born of the conceptualizations of social presence. While various
measures have been proposed for various conceptualizations, there is as of yet no
widely accepted measure of social presence. In our analysis below, we suggest that
a more robust definition and explication of social presence may be required to
support the development of a measure that has satisfactory content and construct
validity. See Table 2.
Insert Table 2 here.
Subjective self-report measures: Subjective social richness of the medium
Because Short, Williams & Christie (1976) popularized the use of the term
social presence in telecommunication, theirs is the most commonly used measure
of social presence. They use a self-report measure of “the subjective quality of the
communications medium” (p. 65) to measure social presence. Their approach uses
a set of semantic differential scales that seek to tap into some of the social and
emotional capabilities of the medium. It is important to note that users are not
asked to judge the experience of the other, but to indirectly assess the effect the
medium. The use of indicators that ask the respondent to assess the “experience”,
rather than the “medium”, is more typical of presence measures. Rather, in this
measure the respondent is asked to directly pass judgment on the medium itself.
Short, Williams, and Christie appear to believe that they are measuring a relatively
stable “‘mental set’ towards the medium” (p. 65). The equivalent approach for a
presence measure would be to ask: “How realistic is this medium?” as opposed to,
“How realistic was the experience?” We will return to this important distinction in
the section on limitations.
Involvement, Immediacy, and Intimacy
Short, Williams, and Christie built their theory on the contemporary social
psychological theories of interpersonal communication. This literature identified key
properties of interpersonal communication labeled as involvement, intimacy (Argyle,
1965), and immediacy (Weiner and Mehrabian, 1968). These were the qualities of
social interaction that media high in social presence could evoke during a mediated
social interaction. While they referred to these constructs, Short Williams and
Christie did not claim to explicitly measure them. Measures of the constructs of
involvement, intimacy, and immediacy have been used in interpersonal and
nonverbal communication literature to define and assess the maintenance of
interpersonal relationships (e.g. Burgoon, 1988). In the typical study, two or more
strangers meet in a room to discuss a topic or complete a task while some aspect
of the interaction is manipulated. Respondents use semantic differential or Likert-
format scale items to judge statements about their partner in an interaction.
If one considers all social presence to be variable whether mediated or not,
then measures from face-to-face communication could be useable for mediated
communication. Making this assumption Nowak (2000) adapted the Burgoon and
Hale (1988) measure explicitly for use in mediated communication in virtual
environments. Gunawardena and Zittle (1997) measure intimacy by blending the
kinds of semantic differential scales used by Short et al., but structuring them to
focus on the intimacy construct. Some of these measures reflect their origin in
face-to-face interpersonal communication: in some cases, the language of items
assumes a vocal interaction and emphasizes judgments of the other.
Other work on computer-mediated communication and human-computer
interaction has adapted these kinds of measures of interpersonal communication to
assess the extent to which interactivity is achieved behaviorally and perceptually
(see, e.g. Burgoon, Bonito et al., 2000; Bonito, Burgoon et al., 2000, November;
Stoner, 2001; Ramirez, 2001, November; Ramirez and Burgoon, 2001,
November; Burgoon, Bonito et al., in press; Burgoon, Bonito et al., in press). To
the extent that interactivity fosters social presence and/or social presence is one
marker of interactivity, these measures, which include constructs such as
involvement, identification, and multiple facets of mutuality (connectedness,
similarity, receptivity, coordination), may tap into dimensions of social presence.
Other communication qualities, such as composure, spontaneity, positivity,
richness, and evaluation, may represent not social presence itself, but rather
markers of the quality of communication that transpires when social presence is
realized or not.
Social judgments of the other
While measures of involvement, intimacy, and immediacy involve judgments
of a specific interaction or the other’s general communication abilities, some
measures are very explicitly attributional measures of the other or broad
evaluations of the relationship with the other.
In an effort to specifically move away from judgments of the medium,
Nowak (2000) and Choi (Choi, Miracle, Biocca, 2001) used a measure of perceived
similarity, labeled homophilly (McCroskey, Richmond et al., 1975) to measure the
user’s perception of avatars and agents in virtual environments. This measure
attempts to capture the sense of feeling similar in attitudes, behaviors, or emotions
to the other.
Behavioral Indicators
Behavioral measures are common in studies of face-to-face interactions
(e.g., Coker and Burgoon, 1987). These are used as measures of interrelated
variables such as involvement and immediacy. Some of the verbal or non-verbal
indicators such as voice inflection or facial expression may be indicative of social
The assumption behind the use of behavioral indicators is straightforward: If
the user is engaged in X and/or Y social behavior, then they must feel that the
other is socially present. The presence or absence of the behavioral indicator may
be explicitly taken as a measure of social presence.
We can find few examples of the use of behavioral measures explicitly as a
measure of social presence. Heeter (1992) measured the percentage of
participants who preferred games against the computer only, with or against
another person, and what type of experiences respondents would prefer other
social entities. Heeter’s study of choice behavior was explicitly interested in media
selection as an indicator of social presence.
Psychophysiological Measures
Although psychophysiological indicators such as heart rate, skin conductance,
or fMRI have been used to measure social psychological responses such as the
processing of affect and motivation (Blascovich, 2000), we are unaware of their
use explicitly to measure mediated social presence. This may be due to absence of
any consistent physiological signature simply for the presence of another even
though interaction with others may elicit various psychophysiological responses
depending on context and interaction. As Blascovitch warns, “a one-to-one
correspondence between specific behaviors and unitary physiological responses
rarely exists… invariant indexes, whether subjective or objective, of social
psychological constructs often prove illusive because target constructs; for
example, risk-taking, love, prejudice, self-concept, themselves prove difficult to
define” (Blascovich, 2000, p. 119-120). This problem applies to social presence as
How Might Current Conceptualizations and Measures of Social Presence
Limit Their Usefulness and Effectiveness?
Do existing theories and measures of social presence provide adequate
guidance for research on social interaction in virtual environments and for
evaluating and measuring the relative social psychological impact of different
interface design technologies? While the work shines light on the problem in many
ways, existing theories and measures may not be developed adequately to fully
support research on social presence in mediated environments.
While intuitive, the concept of social presence can be hard to explicate in a
way that best supports the range of phenomena that fall within its domain and the
needs of measurement.
Vague, overly broad, or circular definitions of social presence
A common limitation affects is common to several definitions of social
presence. Many may be stated too broadly and too vaguely to provide adequate
guidance on the measurement of social presence. For example, others and we
have sometimes defined social presence as “the sense of being with another” or
the “sense of being together” in a virtual environment. While this can be useful as a
shorthand communication, it is inadequate as a definition. It merely replaces the
words social presence with a new, limited set of terms that do not significantly
advance the explication of the construct. The lack of explication, especially the
failure to specify the dimensions of the construct, does not provide enough
guidance to prepare and delimit the scope of the concept for successful
operationalization and measurement.
Confounding of boundary conditions for social presence with the correlates or
effects of social presence
What is the difference between social presence and the effects of social
presence? Most researchers would likely agree that the psychological state of social
presence should be different and separate from the correlates and effects of being
in a state of social presence. But the clear delineation of this line between social
presence and its effects may be hard to accomplish, therefore, it remains unclear in
several theories.
We assume that, like presence, social presence is a phenomenal state
varying during the course of an interaction. It is a fleeting, variable judgment of
the nature of interaction with the other, as limited or augmented by the medium.
But clearly there is a boundary between this temporary and fluctuating state over
the course of an interaction, and some longer-term judgment one might make
about the other. What individuals feel, for example, about the President of the
United States should be independent on how present they might feel with him
should they have the fortune of communicating with him via an email, a telephone
call, a teleconference, or a face-to-face meeting. Measures of longer-term attitudes
about the interaction agent, in this case the President, need to be kept independent
of temporal judgments of social presence with the interactant. Put differently, social
presence is a highly dynamic and transient state that is defined in relation to
another entity, but is independent of judgments about that entity.
Some measures, including ones that we ourselves have used, may cross the
line toward representing variables that are correlates or effects of social presence
rather than social presence per se. The use of measures of user-other similarity
(for example, “homophilly,” McCroskey, Richmond et al., 1975) provides an
example. If such measures are used to assess transient judgments about how
connected a person is feeling toward a target entity, it is probably tapping into the
social presence construct. But if it is merely measuring a summative judgment
about whether the target has characteristics similar to the actor, it is probably
better regarded as a social judgment.
Social presence as measurement of a medium versus a phenomenal state
When we measure social presence, what are we measuring: (1) the
fluctuating phenomenal properties of a communication interaction and the
relationship it establishes between actor and target, or (2) stable properties of a
medium and/or target? Many telecommunication and human-computer
interaction researchers are interested in the latter. But we submit that social
presence measures should measure the former, a transient phenomenological state
that varies with medium, knowledge of the other, content of the communication,
environment, and social context.
Consider the most widely used measure of social presence (Short, Williams
et al., 1976). This is explicitly a measure of the medium, which may be the result
of the funding rather than theory. The UK post office, Department of
Transportation, General Electric, and other organizations funded their earlier studies
to determine the relative effectiveness of different media channels for social
communication. After discussing the social psychological states of users of these
telecommunication technologies, Short, Williams, and Christie proceed to
operationalize their concept of social presence as a business consumer’s “attitude
about a medium” and its use for negotiation, persuasion, and other forms of
organizational communication. This is based on the reasonable assumption that
individuals have certain attitudes towards media channels and what they consider
appropriate for social presence. They considered social presence to be
unidimensional “quality of the medium” and not the interaction of individual
differences, task, and environmental context. They stated that social presence, “…is
conceived of as unidimensional but considered to be a perceptual or attitudinal
dimension of the user…{and thus is} a subjective quality of the medium.” (Short,
Williams et al., 1976, p.650) Therefore, the measure asks respondent to directly
evaluate the properties of medium for social presence.
But there may be two reasons why this approach to measurement may limit
the usefulness and effectiveness of a measure of social presence. Can users reliably
access the properties of a medium that might affect their behavior? Is social
presence just an attitude towards a medium? It has been demonstrated in several
studies (e.g., Nisbett and Ross, 1980) that respondents cannot reliably identify
what is the cause of their attitudes. It is not clear that they can directly introspect
to make a judgment of how well this or that medium “causes their social
presence.” If the goal is to get a direct measure of the medium, it is likely that such
a measure would not be valid. Various other aspects of the interaction are likely to
color the respondents perception of the “social presence capabilities” of the
The Short, Williams and Christie measure of social presence appears to be
concerned with the extent to which an actor perceives a medium as capable of
allowing a sense of social presence. The judgment being made is to what extent
the actor perceives the medium as unsociable-sociable, insensitive-sensitive, cold-
warm, and impersonal-personal. But this may be a social judgment about a
medium, not a judgment about ones state within the medium. Media
appropriateness (Rice, 1993) appears on face value to be a more accurate fit than
social presence as this measure of social presence is a global judgment of the
medium based on ones total experience with the medium.
If social presence is conceptualized as a fluctuating phenomenal state, then
measures of the fixed properties of a medium may not appropriate
operationalizations. In such cases then social presence is a feature of the
communication interaction and the medium is one causal variable shaping that
social interaction. The medium may influence a fluctuating level of social presence,
but social presence will not be specifically directing attributions about medium per
Problems created by measures that include embedded assumptions about the
technology used in the social interaction
Most researchers would agree that social presence is a phenomenon that is
independent of a specific technology and that one can experience some level of
social presence with most media. Therefore, a useable measure of social presence
should be able to measure social presence across most media. But almost all
measures of social presence are constructed by researchers to address an issue in
a specific technology: F2F interaction, email systems, teleconferencing systems, or
virtual environments. Researchers may create a theory, or more typically, develop
a measurement instrument that is specifically suited to the technology they are
A fundamental problem with these measures is that the items are
constructed so that they make assumptions about technology:
Assumptions about sensory channels supported by the technology (display
devices) (i.e., “How well did you see the other.” “I could see the other on the
Assumptions about input devices (i.e., “The other listened to what I said.”
Assumes audio input).
Assumptions about the virtual environment. (i.e., “I felt close to the others in
the virtual room.”)
These items and measures constructed from them cannot be easily
generalized to use with other media. They effectively preclude cross-media
comparisons, and therefore defeat one of the key goals of the social presence
theory and research, the evaluation and relative effectiveness of social presence
technologies or interface techniques.
Overcoming limitations in the range of social interactions that can be
accommodated by a measure of social presence
Much research on social presence is done in settings in which impression
formation or organizational tasks such as collaboration are the norm. As a result,
some theories and measures assume a specific class of interactions: collaboration,
task performance, creating attraction and liking, and so forth. If the measurement
of social presence is tailored to a specific kind of goal, social interaction, or task,
then the same measures cannot be used to measure social presence in other types
of interactions, goals, or tasks. For example, is it not possible to feel that the other
is very socially present in hostile or competitive interactions such as those found in
some computer games? If someone is five feet from you in a immersive virtual
environment, sneering, and pointing a gun directly at your head, can we say that
the individual was not “socially present” because the measure indicated that you,
the respondent, did not “like them,” “feel as if you could cooperate with this
person” or “would like to repeat this interaction”? Such measures fail to satisfy
content and construct validity requirements in measuring social presence.
Summary: Is there a common root to current limitations in social presence theory
and measurement?
We have reviewed some of the conceptualizations and measures of social
presence and discussed some possible limitations. We have suggested that the
following problems affect some or all the current theories:
A definitions that tend towards (a) vague, overly broad, or circular definitions of
social presence, and (b) that tend to blur the logical distinction between the
psychological state of social presence and the psychological or behavioral effects
of social presence.
Confusion as to whether social presence should be a measured as a property of
a medium or a phenomenal state of users.
Limitations in the wide application of measures because of (a) assumptions
about the technology used in the social interaction, (b) assumptions about the
range of social interactions that give rise to social presence.
Many of the limitations can be traced to problems in specifying the range and
scope of the phenomena:
Defining the limited scope of psychological phenomena that constitute social
Defining the scope of social behavior that elicits social presence and that clearly
indicates a social presence state as opposed to an effect of social presence.
Setting criteria for measurement that are broad enough to cover the full range
of media technologies and types of social interactions.
Below we propose is the need for a theory of social presence that explicates
and works toward operationalizing the concept in such a way that it provides the
basis for understanding, explaining, predicting, measuring, controlling, and designing
for appropriate levels of social presence.
Toward a Theory and Measure of Social Presence:
Suggested Criteria, Scope, and Example Scenarios
The beginning of this article indicated that various areas of HCI research
might benefit from a theory of social presence that can support greater explanatory
power and, possibly, generate a more predictive and useable measure. How might
social presence researchers - among which we include ourselves - move past what
we have identified as potential barriers? In this section we try to provide a
contribution towards a more solid grounding for social presence research by: (a)
seeking to ground the fundamental theoretical question of social presence in a
framework that might expand its explanatory power, and (b) define the scope of
the social communication phenomena that might specify the scope of behavior that
a theory of social presence could legitimately address if it is to have broad
explanatory power.
Search for the fundamental theoretical question addressed by social presence
theory and measurement
Having disassembled existing theories of social presence into parts, it may be
wise to start to “rebuild” a theory of social presence. A good start is to look for the
basic question at the very heart of the research enterprise. One fundamental
question that drives researchers’ understanding of mediated social presence is:
What are the properties of representations of other beings that elicit social
responses from users-viewers? We will call this the technology question as it drives
much of social presence research. Designers have manipulated social responses
for centuries via representations of people in paintings, sculpture, and numerous
other media. It is understandable that the technology question would be the most
natural starting point for most design oriented researchers such as Short, Williams,
and Christie.
But this technology question is implicitly married to what we will call the
psychological question of social presence: What properties of humans elicit
attributions of psychological states to representations, as if those representations
contained minds? All the dimensions of social presence used by researchers such as
“intimacy,” “involvement,” and “mutual understanding” circle one basic
phenomenon, that social presence may be the product of the process of “reading a
mind” behind a representation. Of course, these cognitive mechanisms have their
origins in more basic social communication processes.
The psychological questions of social presence may be part of the larger
issue of the “theory of mind” or how individuals have “knowledge of other minds,”
or more specifically infer intentional states to others (Gordon, 1986; Carruthers
and Smith, 1996; Premack and Premack, 1996). The philosopher of mind, Daniel
Dennett, (Dennett, 1987; Dennett, 1996) has suggested that the tendency to infer
agency and mental states to inert entities, what he calls the intentional stance, may
have evolved as a successful strategy to reason about the environment.
When people experience social presence are they using bodily cues, or
technological representations of bodily cues (e.g., facial expressions) to infer the
psychological states of others? Social presence, the sense that one is together with
another, may be the by-product of reading or simulating the minds (mental states)
of virtual others? When interacting with agents or robots, for example, users “read
minds” and respond socially, even when they know that no mind or social other
really exists. Fundamentally, when responding to all social representations we know
that the “other” is just ink on paper or patterns of light on a screen, yet the social
responses are automatic. Discovering how to better trigger, sustain, and enhance
these social cues becomes part of the design outcomes of social presence theory.
A theory of social presence, how we generate mental models of virtual
others in mediated communication, is a subset of this larger research challenge. The
fundamental theoretical question of how one comes to “know other minds” has a
long, complex, but interesting history in the fields of philosophy and psychology
(Carruthers, 1996; Dennett, 1987; 1996; Rosenthal, 1991). It may be that a full
understanding of social presence may benefit from being informed by a larger
theory of how we automatically interpret physical forms and nonverbal and verbal
codes to simulate and infer the content of other minds. A theory of social presence
many need to simultaneously address both the technology questions about media
form and the psychological question about reading minds in representations. When
this approach has been adopted, the results have been enlightening (e.g., Reeves
and Nass, 1996), although Reeves and Nass limit their theoretical exploration of the
psychological question to a very general reference to the operation of an “old brain”
designed to accept the sensory input of technological simulation as real. Social
presence theory may benefit by seeking to forge a deeper link between the brain,
the properties that reads minds in representations, and technology, the properties
that simulates agency in inanimate things such as pixels, paint, and clay.
Focus on mediated-interaction and technological differences?
How broad should a theory of social presence be? What should be the scope
of the social interactions it seeks to explain and measure? There may be a danger
for theories of social presence to drift too far towards overly broad theories of all
social interaction instead of being theories of mediated social interaction. While we
believe a theory of social presence should yield some insight into fundamental
epistemological issues in the “knowledge of other minds” (Gordon, 1986; Dennett,
1987; Carruthers and Smith, 1996; Dennett, 1996; Premack and Premack, 1996)
or social psychological issues in person perception, all human interaction is not the
scope of phenomena to be explained. The scope of social presence theory is the
explanation of technologically mediated human interaction specifically. This focus is
how technology provides filters that add or subtract cues found in unmediated
social interaction.
A central concern of social presence theory has to be whether technologically
mediated social interaction is or is not different from unmediated interaction. If
mediated interaction is different than unmediated interaction, in what way is it
different and what is it about technology that causes this difference? Although
mediated and unmediated social interaction may draw upon the same cognitive
mechanisms, there is an assumption in all presence research that “technology has
an effect.” To support human-computer interaction studies and mediated
communication studies, the theory of mediated social presence is likely to be a
theory of how differences in technological connection, representations, and
mediated access affect, distort, or enhance the perception (mental model) of
others’ intentional, cognitive, and affective states and behavior resulting from those
perceptions. Because social interaction is increasingly mediated social interaction, a
theory of mediated social presence is likely to be able to contribute to philosophical
and psychological theories of other minds and theories of interpersonal
Operationalizing social presence
Researchers use social presence theory for both explanatory and diagnostic
(control) aspects of science. Typically, researchers in human-computer interaction
and telecommunication may use presence theories and measures to directly
compare different media. Researchers may come to focus on social presence
because they want to explore how the communication or task performance of
users of different interfaces affects how they perceive and behave in their
communication with collaborator(s) using the different systems. Thus, theories of
social presence tend to be primarily focused on developing metrics that allow these
comparisons of technological differences, and less focused on individual differences
among users, task differences, etc. To achieve direct comparisons of the
communication effectiveness of increasingly slight differences in media technology,
a theory of social presence would need to be tied to very precise measures of user
responses to mediated others. Therefore, the theory may need to define the
phenomenon of social presence in a way that is suitable to precise measurement.
Unfortunately, some theories of co-presence/social presence do not lend
themselves easily to measurement because the concepts are at too vaguely or
descriptively to support measurement (e.g., Goffman, 1959), or social presence is
collapsed to a single dimension (e.g., Short, Williams & Christie), or social presence
may be defined narrowly to facilitate easier measurement (e.g., Bailenson, 2001).
But the literature reviewed suggests that social presence, like physical presence,
may be multidimensional. Therefore, social presence theory would need to specify
the dimensions of the construct in a way that can guide multidimensional measure
of the construct.
Where and when does mediated “social presence” occur? Defining the boundaries
of mediated social interaction that would need to measured and explained
If the goal is a conceptualization of social presence that supports a robust
measure of social presence and enlightens the design of social presence
technologies, it might be valuable to specify what, when, and where the behavior to
be measured exists, basically to specify criteria and scope conditions for a theory
and measure of social presence. By scope conditions we mean:
specify the range of phenomenon we seek to understand,
delimit the range of causal relationships of the phenomenon we seek to explain,
determine what behavior or attitudes the theory and measure may seek to
determine the range predictions potentially supported by the theory,
and, finally, suggest how the theory may provide guidance for design of
environments that control qualities of social presence that user’s experience.
Theories and measures are scientific tools designed to understand, explain,
predict and control a set of phenomena. If we assume there is a coherent and
delimited set of phenomena for which we use the term, social presence, then we
should be able to define the scope of phenomena that they seek to explain and
criteria for assessing the value of a social presence theory and measure.
In Table 1 we examined definitions of social presence and organized them by
the dimensions that appear to be underlying current conceptualization of social
presence. Thus, one criterion for judging any theory and measure of social
presence is the extent to which it differentiates among these various dimensions
and makes explicit which are being included or excluded.
In Table 3, we expand upon the criteria for conceptualization and
measurement by identifying what might be thought of as the range of phenomena
that a theory of social presence should be able to explain or measure. To flush out
and better specify the research purpose for these criteria, we provide explications
and specify the scope of the phenomenon. The example scenarios illustrate the
range or the kinds of interactions that need to be understood and potentially
accommodated by one set of measures. In some cases, these example scenarios
provide extreme cases that stretch the range of conditions, interactions, and
experiences that a theory of social presence should allow us to explain and
Insert Table 3 here.
Summary and Conclusions
We have proposed that a robust and detailed theory and measure of social
presence could greatly contribute to our understanding and explanation of social
behavior in mediated environments, allow researchers to predict and measure
differences among media interfaces, and guide the design of new social
environments and interfaces, collaborative systems, virtual environments, video
conferencing systems, embodied agents, and other technologies of simulated or
mediated social interactions. Unfortunately, a review of the theory and measures
suggests the current state-of-the-art (a) may not adequately support the broad
explanatory power of mediated behavior required and (b) may provide measures
that are usable but limited in scope. Specifically, our review suggests that:
Current definitions may tend toward (a) vague, overly broad, or circular
definitions of social presence, and (b) may blur the logical distinction between
the psychological state of social presence and the psychological or behavioral
effects of social presence.
The literature shows some confusion as to whether social presence should be
conceived of and measured as a property of a medium or a phenomenal state
of users.
Measures may not support theory development or cross media comparison
because they implicitely embed: (a) assumptions about the technology used in
the social interaction, (b) assumptions about the range of social interactions
that give rise to social presence.
We ended by proposing a set of criteria and scope conditions that might
begin to lay the foundations for a more robust theory and measure of social
presence. Specifically, we proposed that:
Technology + psychology requirement: A theory of social presence with broader
explanatory power would need to simultaneously address the technological
question of what features of a medium elicit social responses and the
psychological question about the properties of human cognition that “read
minds” in both people and things.
Focus on mediated social presence: Although informed by general issues in
social cognition and communication, a theory of social presence must be
fundamentally a theory of how technology mediates social interaction.
Explanatory scope and range conditions: To overcome the tendency for social
presence theories and measures to focus too narrowly on a subset of social
presence behaviors, we have proposed a range of mediated social interactions
that a robust theory and measure of social presence should be able to both
explain and measure.
We hope that this provides some modest contribution towards building a
foundation for theory and measure of social presence with greater explanatory and
predictive power.
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Author Note
Frank A. Biocca is the SBC-Ameritech Professor of Telecommunication and Director
of the M.I.N.D. Labs. Chad Harms is a Ph.D. student in communication. Portions of Dr.
Biocca’s work was supported by grants from the National Science Foundation 61-2032
ITR, the MSU Foundationand the European Union program on Information Society
Technologies (Contract# 39237).
Judee K. Burgoon is Professor of Communication, Professor of Family Studies and
Human Development, and Director for Human Communication Research, Center for the
Management of Information, University of Arizona, Tucson, and Associate Director of the
M.I.N.D. Lab at the University of Arizona. Portions of Dr. Burgoon’s work were
supported by funding from the U. S. Army Research Institute (Contract #DASW01-98-K-
009) and from the Air Force Office of Scientific Research (Grant #F49620-01-1-0394).
The views, opinions, and/or findings in this report are those of the authors and should not
be construed as an official Department of the Army or Department of the Air Force
position, policy, or decision.
We would like to acknowledge the contribution of Matt Stoner and Tony Vitrano
who participated in the early discussions. Correspondence concerning this article should be
addressed to Frank Biocca, Media Interface and Network Design (M.I.N.D.) Labs, College
of Communication Arts and Sciences, Michigan State University, East Lansing, Michigan
49924. Electronic mail address:
Table 1
Definitions of Social Presence
Classification Definition Example studies
Co-presence: co-location, mutual awareness
sensory awareness of
the embodied other
(Goffman 1959)
(un-mediated) “experiencing someone else with one’s naked senses, (p. 15)
“physical distance over which one person can experience another with the
naked senses-thereby finding that the other is “within range” (p. 16)
“full conditions of copresence, however, are found in less variable
circumstances: persons must sense that they are close enough to be
perceived in whatever they are doing, including their experiencing of others,
and close enough to be perceived in this sensing of being perceived.” (p. 17)
(Ciolek 1982; Biocca
and Nowak 1999;
Nowak and Biocca
1999; Nowak 2000;
Biocca and Nowak
2001; Nowak and
Biocca 2001)
“ the feeling that the people with whom one is collaborating are in the same
room” (Mason 1994)
“Social presence refers to the feeling of being socially present with another
person at a remote location.” (Sallnas, Rassmus-grohn et al. 2000)
“the degree of tangibility and proximity of other people that one perceives in a
communication situation” (McLeod, Baron et al. 1997)
(Mason 1994;
McLeod, Baron et al.
1997; Tammelin 1998;
Sallnas, Rassmus-
grohn et al. 2000)
Apparent existence,
feedback, or
interactivity of the
other (Heeter 1992)
“the extent to which other beings in the world appear to exist and react to
the user” (Heeter 1992)
“ the degree to which a person is perceived as a ‘real person’ in mediated
communication (Gunawardena 1995)
(Culnan and Markus
1987; Palmer 1995;
Gunawardena and
Zittle 1997; Cuddihy
and Walters 2000)
Sense of being
“the sense of being together” (de Greef and IJsselsteijn 2000; Cho and
Proctor 2001)
Psychological Involvement
Perceived access to
another intelligence
(Biocca 1997)
“The minimum level of social presence occurs when users feel that a form,
The amount of social presence is the degree to which a user feels access to
the intelligence, intentions, and sensory impressions of another.” (Biocca 1997)
(Huang, 1999; Nowak,
Salience of the other
(Short, Williams et al.
“The degree of salience of the other person in the interaction and the
consequent salience of the interpersonal relationships…it is a subjective quality
of the communications medium…(p. 65)
“a single dimension representing a cognitive synthesis of all the factors” (p.
“attitudinal dimension of the user, a ‘mental set’ towards the medium” (p.65).
(Gunawardena, 1995 ;
Huang, 1999; Rice,
1993; Galimberti,
1997; Riva,
1998;Tammelin, 1998)
“it is phenomenological variable…affected not simply by the transmission of
single nonverbal cues, but by whole constellations of cues which affect the
‘apparent distance’ of the other.” (P.157).
Intimacy and
Immediacy as "directness and intensity of interaction between two entities."
(Mehrabian 1967), (p.325) or "psycological distance" between interactants
(Weiner 1968)
-Intimacy (Argyle 1965) is a function of "proximity, eye-contact, smiling, and
personal topics of conversation etc." (Argyle 1969), (p.95) and categorizes
intimacy as a "dimension(s) of relationship" (p.201) which conversational
partners negotiate
Mutual understanding
“social presence; that is, the ability to make one's self known under
conditions of low media richness ” (Savicki and Kelley 2000)
Behavioral engagement
exchange of behavior
(Palmer, 1995)
“VR is compatible with interpersonal communication to the extent that
individuals can encounter another ‘social presence’ or person (Heeter 1992) in a
virtual environment, and effectively negotiate a relationship through an
interdependent, multi-channel exchange of behaviors” (p. 291) (Huang 1999)
Table 2
Subjective Self-report Scales Used to Measure Social Presence
(key cite)
Description Example social
presence studies
Perceived social richness of the medium
Social Presence
(Short, Williams
et al. 1976)
Social presence is measured using the semantic differential technique (Osgood, Suci et al.
1957). Pairs of items included unsociable-sociable, insensitive-sensitive, cold-warm, and
“Media having a high degree of Social Presence are judged as being warm, personal, sensitive
and sociable.” (Short, Williams et al. 1976) p.66
Multiple conditions (FtF, audio/video, audio only, written)
(Steinfield 1986;
Rice 1992;
et al. 2000)
IPO Social
Presence (de
Greef and
Measured social presence according to Short et al. by using a semantic differential technique
on bipolar items such as (in)/sensitive, cold/warm, (im)/personal, (un)/sociable, including items
which Short et al. (Short, Williams et al. 1976) called aesthetic appeal (small-large, closed-
open, colourless-colourful, ugly-beautiful)
2000) 7-point Likert scale on agreement with user’s comments.
presence” of
(Lee and Nass,
Four item scale measuring responses to computer voices: “as if someone talking to you,” “how
involving,” “how vividly,” “how much attention” (alpha = .89)
Involvement, Immediacy, or Intimacy
Intimacy, &
(Burgoon and
Hale 1987)
Likert, five point items in three scales of indicators for intimacy, involvement and immediacy.
Measure whether the other is perceived to be involved, interested or emotional about the
Tends to be oriented toward conversational interaction and includes items on whether or not
the interaction partner made the conversation seem superficial or created a sense of distance
between the interaction partners.
(Nowak 2000)
Immediacy of
the medium
and Zittle 1997)
Longitudinal study using Short et al. (Short, Williams et al. 1976) bi-polar scales to measure
“intimacy” of the medium. “…social presence scale...embodied the concept of “immediacy” as
defined in the literature” p.8
Social judgments of the other
Richmond et al.
7-point metric measures homophilly, or social attraction was modified for the purposes here.
Includes questions about the extent to which they feel the other person could “be a friend,”
was “pleasant or offensive” and whether or not the participant “desired a future interaction.”
(Choi 2000;
Nowak 2000)
Single or two item measures
Sense of being
together (Ho,
Basdogan et al.
Subjects interacted through a collaborative online game with a confederate
Measured “sense of being together” with the two items 1-7 scale (see Appendix X)
SAM Social
Presence (Lang
Single item graphical measure. Shows two circles for self and other at various levels of
distance until they substantially overlap. Subject indicates which one best represents the
perceived interaction with the other.
Table 3
Criteria, Scope Conditions, and Example Scenarios for a Theory and Measure of Social Presence
Criterion Scope Conditions Example Scenarios
Span different
classes and
generations of
Ideally, the same measurement instrument should be able to
measure social presence across a very wide range of media from the
least interactive (e.g., pictures, voice recordings), to high-bandwidth
telepresence systems that simulate face-to-face interaction.
To insure the ability to support cross-media and cross-interface
comparisons, the social presence measure should be useable
without need for significant alteration or adaptation to be used with
any interface old, new, or not yet created.
Accommodate media comparisons: e.g., A person
feels a change in social presence from cell
phone to video teleconferencing.
Accommodate social presence in older non-
interactive media: e.g., Individual feels social
presence while observing a sculpture.
Accommodate interaction of mediated and un-
mediated social presence: e.g., An individual feels
enhanced social presence in a face-to-face
interaction while wearing technology that gives
them access to the physiological responses of
the other such as their heart-rate, blood
pressure, skin-conductance, etc.
Mediated social presence with non-traditional
interfaces or atypical mediated behaviors. E.g., A
haptic device is used in a mediated-sexual
various kinds of
The theory and associated measure should accommodate and
measure social presence for a wide range of interactions: from the
casual-and-passing to the formal-or-intimate; from collaboration-to-
struggle; from one-to-one, as well as one-to-many interactions, etc.
The measure should not break down at the extremes of interaction
such as social presence in very familiar or intimate interactions such
as two lovers communicating in an immersive environment or in
highly hostile interactions such as a predator-prey interaction with a
virtual character in a computer war game.
Mediated social presence without prior un-
mediated experience: e.g., A work team tries to
get to know each other via a virtual
environment at the beginning of a project.
Mediated social presence of very familiar
interactants. Two old friends meet in an
immersive virtual environment.
Social presence during conflict. E.g., A child feels
terror at the presence of a monster in a
computer game.
Span interactions
with human and
Media transmit representations of all kinds of seemingly intelligent
entities. Therefore a theory and measure of social presence should
accommodate an individual’s sense of social presence with all forms
of mediated intelligence: humans, humanoid artificial intelligence,
robotic devices, non-humanoid characters, agents, and beings.
Social presence with socially designed non-human
others. E.g., User feels social presence when
interacting with automated ticketing agent at an
e-commerce website.
Social presence with non-human others not
explicitly designed to be social. A user feels that
his personal computer has a personality and
“mind of its own.”
Apply to “real”
and “illusory”
A theory and measure of social presence should be applicable to an
individual’s sense of social presence not only in willed social
interactions, but even when there is no interaction, when the
individual is “communicating” (parasocial interaction) with an
imagined other or when “no other” or no intelligence is objectively
aware, present, or responding to the interactant.
“Illusory” social interaction with non-interactive
media. E.g., An individual talks to his TV set.
Social presence in conditions of fluctuating,
changing, or unstable agency. E.g., An individual
continues to feel an avatar is interacting when
the human controlling the avatar is no longer
connected to his embodied shell.
Feeling of social presence during interactions with
non-medium a technology or process with no-
intended communication design. E.g., An
individual feels the presence of another or being
(e.g., a god) in a pattern of smoke, clouds, pixel
noise, etc. (or any entity that may or may not be
there in a medium).
... As reviewed below, the ever-broadening scope of application of social presence across a wider variety of communication scenarios has resulted in conceptual definitions that are increasingly complex, multidimensional, and unwieldy. The sheer breadth and variety of definitions of social presence has led to multiple scoping (Mykota, 2018), integrative (Chen et al., 2015), and systematic (Oh et al., 2018) reviews of the literature, variously seeking to "reconsider" (Ö ztok & Kehrwald, 2017) or "reformulate" (Kreijns et al., 2021) the concept's definition, explicate its component dimensions (Biocca et al., 2003), or differentiate it from other related phenomena (Lee, 2004;Lee, 2004;Lombard & Ditton, 1997;Skarbez et al., 2017). However, despite multiple formal topdown reviews of the empirical research on social presence, there remains no singularly adhered to conceptual definition shared across researchers. ...
... First, much of the early work in virtual reality examining social presence did so in contrast to spatial presence, the two concepts concerned with the subjective experience of virtual others and virtual objects, respectively (Lee, 2004). As such, the perceived co-location of another social actor (Biocca et al., 2003) is akin to the sense of presence as transportation (Lombard & Ditton, 1997) in a specifically social setting. Within this context, social presence entailed not simply the relative detection of mediated others per Short et al. (1976), but the illusion of being non-mediated and physically next to them. ...
... Given this diversity of conceptualizations, researchers have previously conducted formal top-down conceptual reviews of social presence with the aim of organizing definitions and constituent elements into a comprehensive typology, so as to move scholarship toward a more effectual, robust theorizing of the concept. Most notably, the systematic review performed by Biocca et al. (2003) organized previous definitions of social presence in light of modal dimensions found throughout the empirical literature. The resulting classification scheme grouped different conceptualizations, including many of those discussed above, into three clusters: (a) copresence, co-location, mutual awareness, (b) psychological involvement (which includes definitions pertaining to salience, intimacy, immediacy, perceived access to another intelligence, and mutual understanding with that other intelligence), and (c) behavioral engagement (related to the perceived interdependence of parties in multichannel communication exchanges). ...
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Initially the province of telecommunication and early computer-mediated communication (CMC) literature, multiple systematic reviews suggest “social presence” is now used for an increasingly diverse set of phenomena across various communication settings. Drawing upon Chaffee’s (1991) description of concept explication as the dialectic process between the conceptual and operational aspects of research, this study provides a mixed methods analysis of social presence measures to evaluate construct validity and inform a modified conceptual definition. Results reveal several distinct constructs commonly measured in the empirical literature on social presence, including salience, perceived actorhood, co-location/non-mediation, understanding, association, involvement, and medium sociability. Based on the frequencies and co-occurrences of these constructs within instruments and across different research fields, we conclude that social presence, in practice, most commonly consists of the perceptual salience of another socialactor. Implications for the measurement and theorizing of social presence—and its distinction from other social experiences with media—are then considered.
... Although Short, Williams, and Christi (1976) originally argued that social presence would be facilitated by richer media with larger bandwidth (e.g. video conference, facetime), technology users can feel high levels of social presence even with leaner media (e.g., email, texting) if they are familiar with the interacting party's communication style and fluent with the technology used and, most importantly, if their communication is lively, intimate, and interactive (Biocca et al., 2003;Lee 2004). Thus, social presence is not fully determined by technological characteristics, though they do affect the interaction to a certain extent. ...
... As machines' capability of understanding and responding to human speech rapidly advances, whether humans feel social presence while interacting with a machine such as an AI chatbot (Goble, Edwards, and Beattie 2016) or humanoid robot (Edwards, Omilion-Hodges, and Edwards 2017) and how intensely they feel it has become a relevant research focus (Westerman et al. 2020). Biocca et al. (2003) proposed three dimensions of social presence: a) copresence, togetherness and mutual awareness; b) psychological involvement, mutual attention, empathy, and understanding; and c) behavioural engagement, encompassing behavioural interactions, mutual assistance, and dependent action. Based on the first two dimensions, Lee, Park, and Song (2005) found that social presence mediated social responses toward a robot dog, AIBO. ...
... An independent t-test examining differences in the means of five trust dimensions between data collected before and during the pandemic (via zoom meetings) found no statistically significant differences. Biocca et al. (2003) was used to measure participants' levels of social presence felt during interactions with Siri. The scale consisted of four items (e.g., 'How much did you feel as if you were interacting with an intelligent being?,' 'How much attention did you pay to Siri?'). ...
A theoretical model of trust in human-machine communication (HMC) was tested and emotional experience and social presence were evaluated during an interaction with an intelligent virtual agent (IVA), Siri. A two (‘American female’ or ‘American male’ Siri) by two (functional or social task) experiment was conducted with 229 subjects with random assignments. According to multivariate analyses of covariances, participants reported higher levels of emotional significance when they interacted with Siri to inquire about functional tasks. No gender or interaction effects between gender and task were detected. Confirmatory factor analyses and structural equation modelling indicated that both social presence and emotional experience were directly and positively associated with five dimensions of trust (i.e. perceived reliability, technical competence, perceived understandability, faith, and personal attachment) in Siri. This direct effect model was significant after controlling for the effects of task type. Additionally, a test of the mediation model indicated full mediation between emotional experiences and trust by social presence.
... Although in their research agenda Guzman and Lewis (2020) did not explicitly mention social presence, this concept is related to key aspects of communicative AI technologies and has often been included in research on chatbots. However-compared to source orientation and anthropomorphism-the definition of social presence is more contested, with several widely-used definitions from different bodies of literature (e.g., Biocca et al. 2003;Lee 2004;Lombard and Xu 2021). Distilled out of these definitions, the current interview study used as working definition: "the feeling of being together with a non-human entity". ...
... Since in the brain thoughts and feelings are situated in distinctive areas (e.g., Taylor 2021, p. 12), it is important to investigate both of these separately. For future research one could consider to define social presence simply as "the feeling of being together with another" (see Table 2), as in Biocca et al. (2003)'s definition where the other also could be a human or an artificial agent. Source orientation can consequently help to understand what "layers" of the AI-enabled agent users feel together with. ...
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Source orientation, anthropomorphism, and social presence are three concepts that play a pivotal role in present-day research on users’ responses to communication with chatbots. However, there are also problems regarding the three conceptualizations and the related measurements. Therefore, the present qualitative interview study analyzes users’ perceptions of their interactions with chatbots through the lens of source orientation, anthropomorphism as well as social presence, in order to unravel how these three concepts can help to understand human-chatbot communication—each in their unique ways. Interviews were conducted with a sample ( N = 24) that was varied in terms of gender, age, educational level and household composition. Findings are presented for source orientation, anthropomorphism, and social presence, and the discussion elaborates on the theoretical and methodological implications.
... By requiring students to provide responses, such as examples that illustrate an understanding of a concept, instructors compel students to actively engage and explore course concepts (Auyuanet et al., 2018;Cleveland et al., 2017). In the same way that presence demands attention to a source (Biocca et al., 2003), real-time polling also draws students' attention toward an instructor and is likely to increase a student's sense of the social presence of the instructor. Then, as the instructor discusses student responses during the synchronous class, both students' attention to the subject matter and their sense of the instructor's social presence are likely to increase (Horzum, 2017). ...
... Reliability values were acceptable for all constructs (α > 0.70) except for active engagement in asynchronous classes (α = 0.64), which is lower than the conventional threshold of 0.70, but we deemed it acceptable because a twoitem factor is preferred over a single item and alpha tends to be low for two-item constructs (Tavakol & Dennick, 2011). Most measures were adopted or adapted from those used in previous studies (Biocca et al., 2003;Kang et al., 2007;McAuley et al., 1989;Rovai et al., 2009). The main constructs measured were students' perceived social presence (details below), perceived learning (the extent to which participants felt more self-reliant and sophisticated in their understanding of the course concepts), perceived competence (the extent to which participants felt satisfied with their performance and skilled in the class), class enjoyment (the extent to which participants found the class fun and interesting), and engagement in active learning activities. ...
... In other words, we attribute to VAs what Dennett called "derived intentionality" [27,28], i.e., we attribute human-like goals, desires and rationality to an artificial entity. Therefore, social interactions with VAs can afford a sense of "being with another" person [29,30]. Here, we aim to understand whether individual differences in empathy can influence social interaction with virtual agents. ...
Conference Paper
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Nowadays, virtual technology with embedded virtual agents is increasingly present in everyday life. Therefore, understanding the characteristics of psychological experience in social interaction with virtual agents can be useful for theoretical and application purposes. Here, we aim to understand whether individual differences in empathy can influence social interaction with virtual agents. To this end, we designed a correlational study comparing individual propensity towards empathic traits and the ability to take the perspective of a virtual agent (VA) to understand whether and how they are associated. In an Immersive Virtual Reality (IVR) scenario, participants had to locate a glass according to the perspective of a virtual agent. They were seated behind a circular virtual table around which, in various positions closer and further away, VAs with a glass placed in front of them could appear. Participants had to decide whether the glass was to the right or left of the VA's body midline. The results showed an association between some components of empathy and localization time: the higher the tendency to identify with a fictional character, the faster the participants were to locate the glass in all positions of the virtual agents around the table. Likewise, the higher the tendency to experience feelings of empathy, the faster they were in locating only when the VA was close to the observer. These preliminary results suggest that individual differences in empathy and the location of virtual agents help define how people experience virtual social interactions.
... Importantly, this constant 'ambient awareness' is strongly supported by the architecture of the platforms themselves (Papacharissi 2015). My point, then, is that the bulk of the experiences described by my interviewees are less about "the sense of being with another" (which is how Biocca et al. (2003) define 'co-presence') and more about a permanent, even if often marginal, sense of proximity, familiarity, and intimacy from afar. Yet, by foregrounding awareness over co-presence I don't mean to deny the possibility for the latter to ever emerge in these ordinary practices. ...
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This project examines the new dimensions and attributes of the historical construct of liveness in the current social media environment. In this scope, liveness comprises both the orchestration of the experiential and the continuous pursuit of immediacy, presence, shared experience, and authenticity in contexts marked precisely by mediation. Liveness emerges as the productively contradictory experience of immediate connection through media. This thesis deploys liveness both as its central object of enquiry and as a conceptual device to examine mediation as an experiential process in and of itself. Through a diary-interviewing study conducted with London-based social media users, it explores how ordinary experiences of and with habitual social media challenge, reaffirm, or expand our available conceptions of liveness, and assesses the extent to which liveness can be useful to illuminate our understanding of lived experiences with and of social media more broadly. In so doing, the thesis advances a critical phenomenology of mediation, focusing on perceptual processes to examine and interrogate the structures of lived experience without disregarding the social, technical, economic, and political forces that underpin the social media manifold. In examining liveness through some of the organising principles of phenomenology – temporality, spatiality, intersubjectivity, and embodiment – this thesis explores four existential quests as enacted through technical mediation. They are: the ‘real-time’ experience, the experience of ‘being there’, ‘getting involved in a shared experience’, and the ‘authentic’ experience. I conclude that the conceptual value of liveness and its relevance and endurance as a key topic of interest for media studies rest in its intrinsically contested, disputed nature of as-if-ness – of a mediation that claims also to be immediate – and in how those tensions are renewed, refashioned, and updated with the development and habituation of new technologies of communication.
... In a review of theories on social presence, it was found that social presence consists of three dimensions with regard to the interaction and behavior during VE experiences: copresence, psychological involvement, and behavioral engaging [10]. Short et al. introduced the concept of social presence referring to both the participants' feeling of connectedness and the perceived psychological distance during the interaction [49]. ...
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In this paper, we studied the effects of using Microsoft HoloLens 2 in a Metaverse-based collaborative mixed reality environment on the driver’s social presence while using an autonomous driving system. In (semi-) autonomous vehicles the driver is the system’s monitor, and the driving process becomes a secondary task. Our approach is motivated by the advent of Microsoft Mesh XR technology that enables immersion in multi-person, shared mixed reality environments. We conducted a user study comparing the effects on social presence in two scenarios: baseline and mixed reality collaboration. During the baseline condition, participants communicated and interacted with another person using Skype/Meet which was installed on a mobile tablet. In the second scenario the participants used the Microsoft Mesh application installed on HoloLens 2 to collaborate in a mixed reality environment where each user is represented by an augmented 3D avatar. During the experiment, the participant had to perform a social interaction tell-a-lie task and a remote collaborative tic-tac-toe game, while also monitoring the vehicle’s behavior. The social presence was measured using the Harms and Biocca questionnaire, one of the most widely used tools for evaluating the user’s experience. We found that there are significant statistical differences for Co-presence, Perceived Emotional Interdependence, and Perceived Behavioral Interdependence, and participants were able to easily interact with the avatar in the mixed reality scenario. The proposed study procedure could be taken further to assess the driver’s performance during handover procedures, especially when the autonomous driving system encounters a critical situation.
... It is generally accepted that mediated communication results in a lower sense of social presence than face-to-face communication, but the extent depends on the medium and the social cues it can communicate (e.g. see [20]). Social presence requires different cues than spatial presence. ...
Online settings have become more commonplace for interactions. Currently, a common-place interaction is with a chatbot of some kind when traversing the web, however, chatbots offer a limited amount of communication channels for social interactions. These limitations could possibly be addressed by using social robots as alternatives for interacting. The present study examines the effects of a real visual component in an online viewing task on participants’ perceived beliefs (hedonic and utilitarian) of a virtual agent. Perceptual judgments were collected after actively viewing a task with one of the two agents (chatbot or online social robot). The focus of the study was to determine whether social robots offer an increased hedonic experience compared to chatbots. Additionally, utilitarian factors were explored. Results indicated that the online social robot offered an overall better experience being perceived as more hedonic as well as being more perceived as easier to use and adaptable.
Social robots are a proposed solution to feelings of loneliness and social isolation. Given the psychological complexity of experienced trait loneliness and its potential to reduce perceived social presence, an experiment using a social robot was conducted to examine how trait loneliness impacted perceived social co-presence, psychobehavioral interdependence, and subjective mutual presence in social robot interactions. Furthermore, we explored whether these effects differed from human-to-human interactions. Although trait loneliness only affected third order subjective copresence among the three social presence dimensions, individuals with higher trait loneliness were more likely to accept the robot as a social companion.
Recent technological advancements in virtual environment equipment have led to the development of augmented reality displays for applications in medicine, manufacturing, and scientific visualization (Bajura et al., 1992; Janin et al., 1993; Milgram et al., 1991; Lion et al., 1993). However, even with technological advances in virtual environment equipment, the development of augmented reality displays are still in the early stages of development, primarily demonstrating the possibilities, the use, and the technical realization of the concept. The purpose of this chapter is to review the literature on the design and use of augmented reality displays, to suggest applications for this technology, and to suggest new techniques to create these displays. In addition, the chapter also discusses the technological issues associated with creating augmented realities such as image registration, update rate, and the range and sensitivity of position sensors. Furthermore, the chapter discusses humanfactors issues and visual requirements that should be considered when creating augmented-reality displays. Essentially, an augmented-reality display allows a designer to combine part or all of a real-world visual scene, with synthetic imagery. Typically, the real-world visual scene in an augmented-reality display is captured by video or directly viewed. In terms of descriptions of augmented reality found in the literature, Janin et al. (1993) used the term “augmented reality” to signify a see-through head-mounted display (HMD) which allowed the user to view his surroundings with the addition of computer graphics overlaid on the real-world scene. Similarly, Robinett (1992) suggested the term “augmented reality” for a real image that was being enhanced with synthetic parts; he called the result a “merged representation”. Finally, Fuchs and Neuman (1993) observed that an augmented-reality display combined a simulated environment with direct perception of the world with the capability to interactively manipulate the real or virtual object(s). Based on the above descriptions, most current augmented-reality displays are designed using see-through HMDs which allow the observer to view the real world directly with the naked eye. However, if video is used to capture the real world, one may use either an opaque HMD or a screen-based system to view the scene (Lion et al., 1993).
One of the first psychologists to investigate experimentally the role of gaze in human behaviour was Michael Argyle. In 1963 he set up a research group at Oxford with Ted Crossman and Adam Kendon, to study non-verbal communication in human social interaction, which included gaze as an important aspect of this behaviour. Shortly afterwards, Mark Cook joined this group which was funded until 1975, during which time considerable research on gaze had been carried out both at Oxford and elsewhere. This book summarises much of the work done in this field up until that time.