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The experience of spatial presence (SP), i.e., the sense of being present in a virtual environment, emerges if an individual perceives himself as 1) if he were actually located (self-location) and 2) able to act in the virtual environment (possible actions). In this study, two main media factors (perspective and agency) were investigated while participants played a commercially available video game.
The differences in SP experience and associated brain activation were compared between the conditions of game play in first person perspective (1PP) and third person perspective (3PP) as well as between agency, i.e., active navigation of the video game character (active), and non-agency, i.e., mere passive observation (passive). SP was assessed using standard questionnaires, and brain activation was measured using electroencephalography (EEG) and sLORETA source localisation (standard low-resolution brain electromagnetic tomography).
Higher SP ratings were obtained in the 1PP compared with the 3PP condition and in the active compared with the passive condition. On a neural level, we observed in the 1PP compared with the 3PP condition significantly less alpha band power in the parietal, the occipital and the limbic cortex. In the active compared with the passive condition, we uncovered significantly more theta band power in frontal brain regions.
We propose that manipulating the factors perspective and agency influences SP formation by either directly or indirectly modulating the ego-centric visual processing in a fronto-parietal network. The neuroscientific results are discussed in terms of the theoretical concepts of SP.