Won A. S., Perone B., Friend M. , Bailenson J. N. (2016). Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking. 19(6): 380-387.
Virtual reality allows the controlled simulation of complex social settings, such as classrooms, and thus provides an opportunity to test a range of theories in the social sciences in a way that is both naturalistic and controlled. Importantly, virtual environments also allow the body movements of participants in the virtual world to be tracked and recorded. In the following article, we discuss how tracked head movements were correlated with participants’ reports of anxiety in a simulation of a classroom. Participants who reported a high sense of awareness of and concern about the other virtual people in the room showed different patterns of head movement (more lateral head movement, indicating scanning behavior) from those who reported a low level of concern. We discuss the implications of this research for understanding nonverbal behavior associated with anxiety and for the design of online educational systems.