A between-group experiment was carried out to assess whether two different presence questionnaires can distinguish between real and virtual experiences. One group of ten subjects searched for a box in a real office environment. A second group of ten subjects carried out the same task in a virtual environment that simulated the same office. Immediately after their experience, subjects were given two different presence questionnaires in randomized order: the Witmer and Singer Presence (WS), and the questionnaire developed by Slater, Usoh, and Steed (SUS). The paper argues that questionnaires should be able to pass a “reality test” whereby under current conditions the presence scores should be higher for real experiences than for virtual ones. Nevertheless, only the SUS had a marginally higher mean score for the real compared to the virtual, and there was no significant difference at all between the WS mean scores. It is concluded that, although such questionnaires may be useful when all subjects experience the same type of environment, their utility is doubtful for the comparison of experiences across environments, such as immersive virtual compared to real, or desktop compared to immersive virtual.

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