The impact of avatar realism and anonymity on effective communication via mobile devices

Sin-Hwa Kang, James H. Watt
2013 Computers in Human Behavior  
This research investigates the impact on social communication quality of using anonymous avatars during small-screen mobile audio/visual communications. Elements of behavioral and visual realism of avatars are defined, as is an elaborated three-component measure of communication quality called Social Copresence. Experimental results with 196 participants participating in a social interaction using a simulated mobile device with varied levels of avatar visual and behavioral realism showed higher
more » ... levels of avatar Kinetic Conformity and Fidelity produced increased perceived Social Richness of Medium, while higher avatar Anthropomorphism produced higher levels of Psychological Copresence and Interactant Satisfaction with Communication. Increased levels of avatar Anonymity produced decreases in Social Copresence, but these were smaller when avatars possessed higher levels of visual and behavioral realism. j o u r n a l h o m e p a g e : w w w . e l s e v i e r . c o m / l o c a t e / c o m p h u m b e h rather than on social communication that relies more on affective elements, a point made by Ala (2008a, 2008b) and Kang, Watt, and Isbister (2006) . This kind of social communication dominates the use of mobile devices. Both these limitations point to the need for new research into the effect of different avatar realism on social interactions via technologies that afford only limited visual displays, and which are used for socio-emotional purposes as well as focused tasks. Although small display mobile devices do not have enough space for fairly good quality visual displays, we argue that it is important to display the nonverbal information of interaction partners. Conventional wisdom tells us that nonverbal communication is a key part of effective human-to-human communication because it adds important information beyond what's expressed verbally. Therefore, we first conducted a literature review to investigate how crucial a role visual displays play in mediating interactions through relaying the nonverbal information of interaction partners. Literature review Importance of visual nonverbal information in mediated interactions Argyle (1972) argues that emotional states can be more effectively communicated when appropriate verbal signals are accompanied by nonverbal information and that people use nonverbal communication to manage their social relationships. Burgoon, Buller, and Woodall (1996) point out that "Nonverbal communication can express what verbal communication can't or shouldn't. " Ekman and Friesen (1969) state that a nonverbal cue is a primary way of communicating emotions and indicating changes in the quality of interpersonal relationships. Many other theorists and researchers stress the importance of nonverbal cues, and particularly facial expressions, in producing accurate and effective communication (cf.
doi:10.1016/j.chb.2012.10.010 fatcat:5gi3rbt4srfgfn3ecrlefletcq