Perceptual uncertainty and action consequences independently affect hand movements in a virtual environment

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Abstract

When we use virtual and augmented reality (VR/AR) environments to investigate behaviour or train motor skills, we expect that the insights or skills acquired in VR/AR transfer to real-world settings. Motor behaviour is strongly influenced by perceptual uncertainty and the expected consequences of actions. VR/AR differ in both of these aspects from natural environments. Perceptual information in VR/AR is less reliable than in natural environments, and the knowledge of acting in a virtual environment might modulate our expectations of action consequences. Using mirror reflections to create a virtual environment free of perceptual artefacts, we show that hand movements in an obstacle avoidance task systematically differed between real and virtual obstacles and that these behavioural differences occurred independent of the quality of the available perceptual information. This suggests that even when perceptual correspondence between natural and virtual environments is achieved, action correspondence does not necessarily follow due to the disparity in the expected consequences of actions in the two environments.

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Giesel, M., Nowakowska, A., Harris, J. M., & Hesse, C. (2020). Perceptual uncertainty and action consequences independently affect hand movements in a virtual environment. Scientific Reports, 10(1). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-020-78378-z

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