Being Present in a Virtual and in the Real World: Towards a Cognitive Science of Presence

The feeling of presence, the experience of “being there”, is one of the defining characteristics of Virtual Reality (VR). For example, according to NASA, VR is “the use of computer technology to create the effect of an interactive three-dimensional world in which the objects have a sense of spatial presence”.

In the technological field many scholars consider presence as a function of our experience of a given medium (Media Presence). The main result of this approach is one of the most known definitions of presence: the “perceptual illusion of non-mediation” (Lombard & Ditton, 1997). According to this view, presence in VR is achieved by means of the disappearance of the technology – the helmet, the trackers, the gloves, etc. – from the conscious attention of the subject: the less I’m aware of the technology, the more I’m present in the virtual environment. The main advantage of this definition is its predictive value: the level of presence is reduced by the conscious experience of technology inside the VR world. So, to improve presence, VR developers have to remove the medium from the attention of the user, made it “transparent”.

The main limitation of this vision is what is not said. We are present only in VR? If not, what is presence for? Is it a specific cognitive process?

This project consists of work to answer to these questions.
See this researchgate project page for project participants and publications related to this theme.