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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Examining the effects of real and implied social presence Nasiopoulos, Eleni


There is compelling evidence that the physical presence of others influences the decisions and behaviour of individuals. Recently in social presence research, the focus has turned to the influence of implied social presence, i.e., the knowledge or belief that one's behaviour is being (or could be) watched by another. The aim of this thesis is to establish how real and implied presence are similar or different from each other, and to investigate potential mechanisms that can account for the observed effects, such as self-awareness, cognitive load, and proximity. In chapter 1 I briefly review research on social presence, both real and implied, and discuss recent work which directly investigates the influence of social presence on gaze behavior and the implications of this work for understanding social attention. I then investigate the current gaps in social presence research, and assess how implied and real presence effects are similar or different from each other. Chapter 2 lays out what is understood thus far as implied social presence effects, investigating the time course of the effect and the role of self-awareness. In Chapter 3, I capture systematic patterns of social presence effects by use of a common metric of visual attention, and apply this method throughout all subsequent chapters as well as honing the paradigm to capture the effects of social presence in question. Chapter 4 uses this paradigm to examine the effects of cognitive load and physical proximity, on implied and real social presence. Changes in cognitive load reveal a quantitative difference between implied and real presence, and manipulations in proximity reveal a qualitative difference. Chapter 5 extends the consideration of social presence to purchasing behaviours. This examination reveals that social presence effects vary for looking behaviours and purchasing decisions, and that the former is a poor predictor of the latter. Throughout these seven studies, a total of 502 participants were recruited and tested. In Chapter 6 I discuss the results, outline their implications, limitations, and identify future studies that would advance further our understanding of social presence.

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