Measuring Interpersonal Trust towards Virtual Humans with a Virtual Maze Paradigm

, , , , and . IEEE Transactions on Visualization and Computer Graphics (TVCG), (2023)IEEE VR Best Paper Honorable Mention 🏆.
DOI: 10.1109/TVCG.2023.3247095


Virtual humans, including virtual agents and avatars, play an increasingly important role as VR technology advances. For example, virtual humans are used as proxies of users in social VR or as interfaces for AI assistants in online financing. Interpersonal trust is an essential prerequisite in real-life interactions, as well as in the virtual world. However, to date, there are no established interpersonal trust measurement tools specifically for virtual humans in virtual reality. Previously, a virtual maze task was proposed to measure trust towards virtual characters. For the current study, a variant of the paradigm was implemented. The task of the users (the trustors) is to navigate through a maze in virtual reality, where they can interact with a virtual human (the trustee). They can choose to 1) ask for advice and 2) follow advice from the virtual human if they want to. These measures served as behavioural measures of trust. We conducted a validation study with 70 participants in a between-subject design. The two conditions did not differ in the content of the advice but in the appearance, tone of voice and engagement of the trustees (alleged as avatars controlled by other participants). Results indicate that the experimental manipulation was successful, as participants rated the virtual human as more trustworthy in the trustworthy condition than in the untrustworthy condition. Importantly, this manipulation affected the trust behaviour of our participants, who, in the trustworthy condition, asked for advice more often and followed advice more often, indicating that the paradigm is sensitive to assessing interpersonal trust towards virtual humans. Thus, our paradigm can be used to measure differences in interpersonal trust towards virtual humans and may serve as a valuable research tool to investigate trust in virtual reality.

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