The self in extended reality: How human factors shape self-environment interactions
The self is a pivotal point for interactions with the environment. Embodying what belongs to the self supports the perception of being a separate entity from the environment in which we feel present. Interacting with objects in this environment requires knowing the position of the self and the target objects in space. Although target objects can ... be encoded relative to the self (egocentric) or other objects (allocentric), motor plans for goal-directed movements are always expressed in egocentric coordinates. Thus, to understand ‘self-environment’ interactions, it is necessary to consider processes defining the self in conjunction with processes for encoding object positions in space. The literature reviewed in the first study suggested that embodiment and presence are closely related. However, their relation is still ill-defined. This motivated me to introduce a new conceptual framework, the Implied Body Framework, which specifies the relation between embodiment and presence and also shows how actions in a virtual environment can influence both processes. The second study followed up on challenges related to investigating the subjective experience of the self. The results show that participants presented with the experimental procedures in an online experiment formed expectations matching the subjective ratings of participants in the actual virtual reality experiment. These expectations could bias participants to rate questionnaire items in line with the experimenter’s hypotheses. The third study focused on the role of the self when interacting with objects in the environment. In this study, participants reproduced a configuration of balls presented in VR from memory. Manipulating participants’ egocentric spatial position introduced errors when reproducing the relative ball positions, showing that allocentric spatial memory depended on the egocentric position of the self. Together, these studies highlight the role of the self when interacting with the environment and the challenges associated with investigating self-related processes. This is not only relevant for interactions within the environment immediately surrounding the self, but also when using teleoperation systems to interact with objects remotely.