There are vast potential applications for children's entertainment and education with modern virtual reality (VR) experiences, yet we know very little about how the movement or form of such a virtual body can influence children's feelings of control (agency) or the sensation that they own the virtual body (ownership). In two experiments, we gave a total of 197 children aged 4-14 years a virtual hand which moved synchronously or asynchronously with their own movements and had them interact with a VR environment. We found that movement synchrony influenced feelings of control and ownership at all ages. In Experiment 1 only, participants additionally felt haptic feedback either congruently, delayed or not at all this did not influence feelings of control or ownership. In Experiment 2 only, participants used either a virtual hand or non-human virtual block. Participants embodied both forms to some degree, provided visuomotor signals were synchronous (as indicated by ownership, agency, and location ratings). Yet, only the hand in the synchronous movement condition was described as feeling like part of the body, rather than like a tool (e.g., a mouse or controller). Collectively, these findings highlight the overall dominance of visuomotor synchrony for children's own-body representation; that children can embody non-human forms to some degree; and that embodiment is also somewhat constrained by prior expectations of body form.
Dewe, H., Gottwald, J., Bird, L., Brenton, H., Gillies, M., & Cowie, D. (2022). My virtual self: the role of movement in children's sense of embodiment. IEEE Transactions on Visualization and Computer Graphics, 28(12), 4061-4072. https://doi.org/10.1109/tvcg.2021.3073906