Visual and Behavioural Fidelity of Virtual Humans with Applications to Bystander Intervention in Violent Emergencies

Lead Research Organisation: University College London
Department Name: Computer Science

Abstract

The aim of this project is to dramatically improve the quality of immersive social virtual environments (IVEs). By 'quality' we refer to the response of participants to virtual social situations, in particular the extent to which they respond realistically to what they perceive. By 'response' we mean at every measurable level, ranging from non-conscious physiological processes (such as changes in electrodermal activity or heart rate variability) through to overt behavioural, emotional and cognitive responses / including what they report in interviews about their subjective state of mind. By social IVEs we specifically refer to applications where one or more human participants interact with virtual humanoid characters (avatars) in a socially defined context. Specifically, our objectives are to improve the visual appearance of interactive characters and their interactive behaviour especially so that their behaviour responds appropriately to the behaviour of the participants. Third, social IVEs will be constructed that are well-studied in the social psychology literature, and which are of great societal importance, referred to as bystander behaviour in violent emergencies such as in street violence. Finally, these virtual social situations will be used in a series of experimental studies in order to test whether indeed these objectives do improve the quality of response of participants within these social IVEs.One of our goals is to exploit our research in socially useful applications, and thereby also contribute to the growing body of research that uses VEs as a laboratory for social psychological research. In particular we consider the research program of Levine and colleagues at Lancaster on bystander behaviour in violent emergencies. This research program revisits the classic 'bystander effect' in social psychology. The bystander effect suggests that the more witnesses there are to an emergency, the less likely an individual bystander is to intervene. This phenomenon was identified as a consequence of the apparent inaction of 38 witnesses to the brutal rape and murder of Kitty Genovese in New York in 1964. The bystander effect is one of the most robust and reproduced effects in social psychology. However, it lacks practical utility, since for ethical and practical reasons it is not possible to study it scientifically under controlled conditions. In this project we aim to study the bystander effect in the context of virtual environments, where other work has shown that people do tend to respond realistically to virtual social situations.

Publications

10 25 50
 
Description This project was concerned with the use of virtual reality to study bystander responses to aggressive behaviours. It showed that virtual reality could be used in conditions where experiments with real people cannot be used for ethical and practical purposes.
Four different experimental studies were run. The fundamental findings were that
(1) people will tend to intervene to help a victim of aggression when the victim shares some social identity with themselves (for example, supporting the same football team).
(2) when there are other people present during the violent confrontation, the subject is more likely to intervene when the other people do not share social identity with themselves. For example, if the other people do not support the same football team as either the victim or the subject, then the subject is more likely to intervene than when the others do share the same social identity.
The second point is important since it shows that the widely held theory of diffusion of responsibility (i.e., one person is less likely to intervene the more bystanders that there are) is modulated by the social identity of the other bystanders.
Exploitation Route It could be of use to authorities in order to help determine policy in the case of violent incidents.
(1) How should bystanders respond?
(2) Should the victim and under what circumstances seek help from the bystanders.
Sectors Government, Democracy and Justice,Other

URL http://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/1383154/
 
Description Leverhulme Trust
Amount £179,339 (GBP)
Funding ID F/07 134/CT 
Organisation The Leverhulme Trust 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 11/2009 
End 10/2013
 
Description Leverhulme Trust
Amount £179,339 (GBP)
Funding ID F/07 134/CT 
Organisation The Leverhulme Trust 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 11/2009 
End 10/2013