Anxiety Induction in Virtual Environments: An Experimental Comparison of Three General Techniques
Published in:Interacting with Computers, Vol. 26, No. 6, November 2014, pp. 528-539.
Abstract:Anxiety induction and elicitation of associated physiological arousal with virtual environments (VEs) is important in diverse domains. This paper evaluates three general anxiety induction techniques. The first augments the VE with a health bar that is often displayed in video games to indicate when the user’s avatar gets hurt. The second augments theVE with aversive audio-visual stimuli, which are employed in first-person shooter games when the user’s avatar gets hurt and include preset heartbeat sound. The third introduces in the previous technique a biofeedback mechanism to control heartbeat sound. The results we obtained on a VE that reproduces a fire evacuation indicate that the third technique produces much higher physiological arousal than the other two, and measures of users’ state anxiety are consistent with physiological results.We discuss possible reasons that could explain why the exploitation of auditory heartbeat biofeedback contributes to make the third technique more effective, by linking our study to research and theories of affect and emotions.