We assessed the utility of using immersive virtual environment (IVE) technology for social psychological research by attempting to replicate two classic social influence effects. Specifically, we sought to replicate the classic social facilitation/inhibition effects wherein individuals' performance on a task is affected by the presence of others. Within an IVE, participants mastered one of two tasks and subsequently performed the mastered or nonmastered task either alone or in the presence of a virtual human audience whom they were led to believe were either computer-controlled agents or human-controlled avatars. Those performing in the presence of avatars demonstrated classic social inhibition performance impairment effects relative to those performing alone or in the presence of agents. We discuss important elements involved in the experience of social influence within immersive virtual environments.

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