Feeling Small or Standing Tall? Height Manipulation Affects Speech Anxiety and Arousal in Virtual Reality

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Social performance situations often constitute one of the most challenging communication tasks across different cultures. In today's work environments, giving presentations and performing in front of others are often essential and expected. Therefore, public speaking anxiety can have a serious impact on an individual's job performance, career choice, and prospects. Contemporary consumer virtual reality hardware has made it possible to practice public speaking anywhere in a safe and private virtual reality environment (VRE). As VREs offer the means to practice real-life scenarios, they also make it possible to go beyond what is “real”; to replace simulations with more dynamic and innovative training environments. Furthermore, with occupational life undergoing a significant shift toward technology-mediated working conditions, innovative tools and methods could also be used during virtually implemented real-time social interactions. This research aimed to study the ways in which an illusion of height, that is, perceived tallness versus perceived shortness, without any visible virtual body or representation, influences state speech anxiety and emotional responses of participants during simulation of a stressful speech task. The experiment followed a strictly controlled between-subject procedure, and both self-reported and psychophysiological data were collected. Results indicate that participants perceiving the illusion of tallness felt less anxious and had lower self-reported arousal compared with participants with the illusion of shortness. This implies that even simple, visual, first-person perspective manipulation of the VRE could help individuals to reduce their stress responses during a task-oriented situation.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)246–254
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 14 Apr 2023
Publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • virtual reality
  • emotion regulation
  • speech anxiety
  • emotional response

Publication forum classification

  • Publication forum level 1


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