Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Legacy Department

Computer Science

Committee Chair/Advisor

Babu, Sabarish V

Committee Member

Hodges, Larry

Committee Member

Joerg, Sophie


The ability of realistic vs stylized representations of virtual characters to elicit emotions in users has been an open question for researchers and artists alike. We designed and performed a between subjects experiment using a medical virtual reality simulation to study the differences in the emotions aroused in participants while interacting with realistic and stylized virtual characters. The experiment included three conditions each of which presented a different representation of the virtual character namely; photo-realistic, non-photorealistic cartoon-shaded and non-photorealistic charcoal-sketch. The simulation used for the experiment, called the Rapid Response Training System was developed to train nurses to identify symptoms of rapid deterioration in patients. The emotional impact of interacting with the simulation on the participants was measured via both subjective and objective metrics. Quantitative objective measures were gathered using skin Electrodermal Activity (EDA) sensors, and quantitative subjective measures included Differential Emotion Survey (DES IV), Positive and Negative Affect Schedule (PANAS), and the co-presence or social presence questionnaire. The emotional state of the participants was analyzed across four distinct time steps during which the medical condition of the virtual patient deteriorated, and was contrasted to a baseline affective state. The data from the EDA sensors indicated that the mean level of arousal was highest in the charcoal-sketch condition, lowest in the realistic condition, with responses in the cartoon-shaded condition was in the middle. Mean arousal responses also seemed to be consistent in both the cartoon-shaded and charcoal-sketch conditions across all time steps, while the mean arousal response of participants in the realistic condition showed a significant drop from time step 1 through time step 2, corresponding to the deterioration of the virtual patient. Mean scores of participants in the DES survey seems to suggest that participants in the realistic condition elicited a higher emotional response than participants in both non-realistic conditions. Within the non-realistic conditions, participants in the cartoon-shaded condition seemed to elicit a higher emotional response than those in the charcoal-sketch condition.



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