Effects of implied social presence and interaction on attention in a virtual setting

  • Author / Creator
    Song, YanFei
  • The social interactions that we engage in with those around us are crucial to our successful navigation of daily life, and the presence of others can largely influence our attentional allocation. However, less is known regarding social presence and interactions as they occur online; as the recent pandemic has led to a shift to online virtual social gatherings, it is even more imperative for us to understand the ways in which this can affect our attention. Here, we sought to understand whether implied social interaction and implied social presence can affect attention in a virtual visual search task. Implied social interaction was operationalized by telling participants they were cooperating and competing with a partner, while implied social presence was operationalized by the visual depiction of the other player on screen. To solidify our manipulation of implied social interaction, feedback was provided in the form of telling participants whether they were accurate or not, and their relative speed compared to the previous pair (cooperation) or compared to the opponent (competition). Our results indicate that, in line with prior work, participants who were told they were competing were significantly faster but less accurate than those who were told they were cooperating, suggesting that it is feasible to study implied social interactions using a virtual format. Although we did not find a significant interaction between this effect and our social presence manipulation, when comparing social presence to a baseline condition with no partner evoked, we found that participants prioritized accuracy when told they were cooperating and speed when told they were competing as compared to individual search. These findings suggest that the threshold to imply social presence may be lower than we thought, and that our cognitions regarding our social interactions can play a large role in affecting our attention.

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  • Graduation date
    Fall 2021
  • Type of Item
  • Degree
    Master of Science
  • DOI
  • License
    This thesis is made available by the University of Alberta Libraries with permission of the copyright owner solely for non-commercial purposes. This thesis, or any portion thereof, may not otherwise be copied or reproduced without the written consent of the copyright owner, except to the extent permitted by Canadian copyright law.