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Virtually Being Einstein Results in an Improvement in Cognitive Task Performance and a Decrease in Age Bias

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The brain's body representation is amenable to rapid change, even though we tend to think of our bodies as relatively fixed and stable. For example, it has been shown that a life-sized body perceived in virtual reality as substituting the participant's real body, can be felt as if it were their own, and that the body type can induce perceptual, attitudinal and behavioral changes. Here we show that changes can also occur in cognitive processing and specifically, executive functioning. Fifteen male participants were embodied in a virtual body that signifies super-intelligence (Einstein) and 15 in a (Normal) virtual body of similar age to their own. The Einstein body participants performed better on a cognitive task than the Normal body, considering prior cognitive ability (IQ), with the improvement greatest for those with low self-esteem. Einstein embodiment also reduced implicit bias against older people. Hence virtual body ownership may additionally be used to enhance executive functioning.
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... In allusion to the Greek God Proteus who could instantly change his shape into any possible appearance, this phenomenon was coined the Proteus effect [100,102]. Since the demonstration of this phenomenon, the Proteus effect has been shown in a variety of different contexts [44,82], e.g., cognitive performance [9,51,83], aggressive behavior [4], implicit racial bias [8], food choice [85], creative ideation [32], or walking speed [50,84]. ...
... Additionally, we continuously measured the HR and the pedaling frequency. We also surveyed participants after each condition using the self-perceived fitness (SPF) questionnaire [27], the Body Representation Questionnaire (BRQ) [7,9] for assessing the experienced body ownership of the avatars, and the Player Identification Scale (PIS) [60] to quantify the embodied presence and identification with the sweaty and non-sweaty avatars. As simulator sickness is known to cause increased physiological responses (e.g., increased sweating rate or HR), we also administered the Virtual Reality Sickness Questionnaire (VRSQ) using the items sweating, nausea, general discomfort, stomach awareness, and increased salivation [42] to control for potential effects caused by the VR exposition. ...
... Body Ownership. Participants answered the BRQ [7,9] to assess the experienced body ownership of the avatars. The BRQ consists of five single-item subscales: vrbody ("I felt that the virtual body I saw when looking down at myself was my own body"), mirror ("I felt that the virtual body I saw when looking at myself in the mirror was my own body"), features ("I felt that the virtual body resembled my own real body in terms of shape, skin tone or other visual features"), twobodies ("I felt as if I had two bodies"), and agency ("I felt that the movements of the virtual body were caused by my own movements"). ...
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Avatars are used to represent users in virtual reality (VR) and create embodied experiences. Previous work showed that avatars' stereotypical appearance can affect users' physical performance and perceived exertion while exercising in VR. Although sweating is a natural human response to physical effort, surprisingly little is known about the effects of sweating avatars on users. Therefore, we conducted a study with 24 participants to explore the effects of sweating avatars while cycling in VR. We found that visualizing sweat decreases the perceived exertion and increases perceived endurance. Thus, users feel less exerted while embodying sweating avatars. We conclude that sweating avatars contribute to more effective exergames and fitness applications.
... This visuomotor synchronous stimulation can induce the illusion of owning a virtual body rather than the physical one. This allows the users to embody virtual personas with different body representations in terms of structure, size, identities, and morphology [2,4,20,29]. ...
... Kilteni et al. [21] also showed the illusion of ownership over an asymmetrical virtual body. Other works showed the illusion of ownership over avatars with different skin color [3,16,20,31], or older [4,38] or younger [2], or even with well-known identities in real-life [4,29]. These results show a high degree of brain plasticity in our perception of the human body representation. ...
... Kilteni et al. [21] also showed the illusion of ownership over an asymmetrical virtual body. Other works showed the illusion of ownership over avatars with different skin color [3,16,20,31], or older [4,38] or younger [2], or even with well-known identities in real-life [4,29]. These results show a high degree of brain plasticity in our perception of the human body representation. ...
... In a review about bodily illusions, Braun et al. [7] concluded that users can even experience a sense of ownership of full-body avatars. Previous work induced a body ownership of avatars, for example, with a different muscular [37] and athletic [34] appearance or with a different age [3,4,39,50]. Overall, in all these studies the experimental design did not involve a control condition consisting of an artificial arm illusion or even full-body illusion performed in the real world, e.g., using a rubber hand or a mannequin [49]. ...
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... By using various mechanisms, such as real-time motion capture, the virtual body/avatar can be programmed to move synchronously and in correspondence with the user's real body movements, invoking the perceptual illusion of the virtual body ownership [16]. Use of embodiment in VR can result in changing attitude and behaviours [17], which of particular importance to understand and accept the threat-based approach to protection. ...
Chapter
The Proteus effect in Virtual Reality (VR) happens when the user's behavior or attitude are affected by their avatar's appearance. The virtual body appearance is somehow affecting the emotional, behavioral and psychological state of its user. In recent years, manipulation of an avatar has become a more common situation because of social VR platforms. It is considered that the Proteus effect can be induced even for social VR users. However, there are possibilities to disrupt the Proteus effect by becoming accustomed to embodying an avatar or attachment to their avatar. In this paper, we investigated whether the Proteus effect can be induced even for social VR users. We experimented on how an artist-like avatar affects the score of creativity on brainstorming in comparison with a common avatar. Fourteen VRChat users participated in our experiment. We evaluate the number of ideas and the quality of ideas during brain-storming. As result, there are no significant differences and interactions between conditions regarding any measures. In addition, there are no equivalencies except the number of selected unique ideas. It implies that an artist-like avatar does not significantly affect the user's creativity in this experiment.. However, six of the fourteen participants reported that the artist-like avatar's appearance affected their thinking during task execution. Our results suggest that further research is needed to fully understand the elicitations, implications and limitations of the Proteus effect in VR.
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Chapter
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