Interaction between cyberbodies and cyberspace : the effect of avatar abilities on affordance perception in virtual reality
The possible actions that we can perform with an object are determined by the capabilities of the human body. Then, if we could change the body, would it create new action possibilities for us? In this study, we examined the effect of altered abilities on the perception of potential actions for a given object — affordance perception. Objects with handles are known to potentiate the afforded action. Participants tend to respond faster when the handle is on the same side as the responding hand in a bimanual speed response task (Tucker & Ellis, 1986). In the first experiment, we replicated this effect in a Virtual Reality (VR) setting by manipulating the handle orientation and distance of the object with an intermediate level. In the second experiment, we showed that this effect was influenced by the avatar (a 3D representation of the body and its movements in VR) which was manipulated by two different hand types (able hand, i.e., able to grasp vs. restricted hand, i.e., not able to grasp). The division of the data collection into action planning and action execution created a valuable insight. Specifically, during action planning, the affordance effect was significantly stronger for the restricted hand. One explanation for this is that fewer action possibilities provided the restricted hand an advantage in processing time. During action execution, on the other hand, the affordance effect was reversed. This reversed effect is rarely found in the literature. In this case, it may be due to the ongoing action planning during action execution. The results were examined from a multidisciplinary perspective, together with a discussion on the implications for VR applications.