When Virtual Feels Real: Comparing Emotional Responses and Presence in Virtual and Natural Environments

Alice Chirico, Andrea Gaggioli

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Although virtual reality (VR) is increasingly regarded as an effective emotion induction technique, little research has examined whether and how emotions elicited in VR differ from those evoked in real life. To address this question, 50 participants (25 females and 25 males) were exposed to either a real-life contemplative scenario (a panoramic view of a lake) or to an immersive 360° footage of the same landscape. Next, type and valence of emotions, as well as sense of presence reported by participants, were compared across conditions. Findings showed that emotions elicited by virtual and natural conditions were not significantly different. The only exception was anger, which was significantly higher in the natural condition, and amusement, which was significantly higher in the virtual condition. Sense of physical presence and engagement dimensions of presence did not significantly differ between virtual and real conditions. However, different correlation patterns between emotions and key dimensions of presence were found after in vivo and in virtuo exposure. These findings provide initial evidence that emotions and sense of presence elicited by immersive videos are comparable with those evoked by real-life scenarios and warrant further investigations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)220-226
Number of pages7
JournalCyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2019


  • affect
  • emotion-induction
  • immersive video
  • presence
  • virtual reality

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Communication
  • Applied Psychology
  • Human-Computer Interaction
  • Computer Science Applications


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