The statement below regarding the measurement of presence is based on a discussion that took place via the presence-l listserv during the spring of 2000 among members of a community of scholars interested in the presence concept. The compendium of measures is here.
Because it is a multi-dimensional concept that involves psychological processes, researchers face significant challenges in developing valid and reliable measures of presence. There are two general approaches: subjective and objective.
Subjective measures of presence require study participants to produce a conscious, introspective judgment regarding their experience. This is typically reported via a paper-and-pencil questionnaire following the experience, but the responses can also be recorded “online” during the experience via a hand-dial, potentiometer (e.g., Freeman, Avons, Pearson & IJsselsteijn, 1999; IJsselsteijn, de Ridder, Hamberg, Bouwhuis, & Freeman, 1998), or verbally as they perceive transitions between the perception of being in a media-created (virtual) environment and the physical (‘real’) environment (Slater & Steed, in press).
Most researchers use subjective questionnaire items in their studies, in part because they appear to be valid measures (they request information logically related to what we understand presence to be) and also because the measures are easy and inexpensive to use.
Although there is evidence that subjective measures can be valid and reliable (see Prothero, Parker, Furness, & Wells, 1995a), they have several important limitations. Some researchers have identified reliability problems in which the measures produce unstable and inconsistent responses across particpants, time, and study settings (see Freeman, Avons, Pearson & IJsselsteijn, 1999). The items may be difficult for study participants to understand (especially if they explicitly refer to the presence concept). The act of introspection regarding the participants’ experience may influence their responses to the items in unpredictable ways so that they don’t accurately reflect the participants’ true experience. And the combination of the study parameters (the setting and manipulations) and the items may lead participants to predict the type of responses the researcher expects (i.e., the research may produce demand characteristics) and they may either respond in accord with or against those expectations (this last problem is particularly pronounced in within-group experimental designs, in which the same participants are exposed to a series of “treatments” designed to elicit different degrees and/or types of presence). Beyond these problems, some of which can be addressed with more careful and systematic design and administration of the measures, a major problem is that few researchers use the same set or sets of measurement items, making comparisons across studies difficult; several presence questionnaire instruments that may be valid and reliable across different participant groups, experimental conditions, stimuli, and settings, have been or are currently in development (e.g., see Lessiter, Freeman, Keogh, & Davidoff, 2000; Lombard, Ditton, Crane, Davis, Gil-Egui, Horvath, Rossman, & Park, 2000; Schubert, Friedmann, & Regenbrecht, 1999; Witmer & Singer, 1998).
While most subjective measures of presence are paper-and-pencil questionnaire items with a limited number of proscribed responses, a more qualitative, ethnographic, subjective measurement of presence can also be used (see McGreevy, 1993; Gilkey & Weisenberger, 1995). Study participants can be interviewed extensively, either individually or in a focus group setting, regarding the nature of their responses. While these measurement techniques may be high in validity, they are not standardized and thus don’t allow systematic comparisons within or across studies.
Objective measures of presence record study participants’ physiological and/or behavioral responses that are logically correlated with their relevant psychological responses. These measures do not require (or in some cases, allow) conscious intropsection, and they are typically administered during the participants’ experience rather than following it. Objective measures record such things as changes in skin conductance, blood pressure, heart rate, muscle tension, respiration, ocular responses, posture, and so on (e.g., Freeman, Avons, Meddis, Pearson, & IJsselsteijn, 2000; for a discussion see IJsselsteijn, de Ridder, Freeman, & Avons, 2000). Prothero, Parker, Furness, and Wells (1995b) discuss “direct” or “Class A” measures of presence in which subjects are presented with virtual and “real”‘ cues which conflict (e.g., real inertial oscillation that conflicts with virtual visual cues); the degree to which subjects respond to the virtual cues rather than the real ones indicates presence perceptions (see also Sheridan (1992) proposed a related measure: when “a virtual object is suddenly seen (and/or heard binaurally) to be on a collision course with one’s head, does the subject blink, or duck?” (p. 121). While these objective measures avoid problems of demand characteristics and allow online rather than post-experience measurement, they are often expensive and difficult to administer, and they require a clear and established relationship to exist between the physiological or behavioral responses measured and the psychological responses that represent or are associated with presence (Prothero, Parker, Furness, and Wells [1995b] point out that “there is currently no evidence that physiological measures correlate well with presence; Sheridan [1992b] notes that “telepresence (or virtual presence) is a subjective sensation, much like mental workload, and it is a mental model — it is not so amenable to objective physiological definition and measurement” (p. 209)). The requirement that there be a strong relationship between the measured responses and presence means that the measures may be appropriate in only certain contexts, making it unlikely that a single objective measure of presence will be developed.
The measures compendium contains paper-and-pencil items used to measure various dimensions of and phenomena related to presence. Note that different researchers would use a different category scheme and/or assign items differently to the categories here and that many items can logically fit into multiple categories; the table is not meant to be a definitive classification. Other valuable collections of measures are available from Youngblut (2003) and van Baren and IJsselsteijn (2004).
Unless an author has stated otherwise, presence researchers are welcome to use any of the items in their own work with proper acknowledgment (please also cite this “Resources for the Study of Presence” web page.)
Contributions, corrections, and comments regarding the table are encouraged and should be directed to email@example.com.
Freeman, J., Avons, S. E., Meddis, R., Pearson, D. E. & IJsselsteijn, W. A. (2000). Using behavioural realism to estimate presence: A study of the utility of postural responses to motion-stimuli. Presence: Teleoperators and Virtual Environments, 9(2), 149-165.
Freeman, J., Avons, S. E., Pearson, D. E., & IJsselsteijn, W. A. (1999). Effects of sensory information and prior experience on direct subjective ratings of presence. Presence: Teleoperators and Virtual Environments, 8(1), 1-13.
Gilkey, R. H., & Weisenberger, J. M. (1995). The sense of presence for the suddenly deafened adult. Presence: Teleoperators and Virtual Environments, 4(4), 357-363.
IJsselsteijn, W. A., de Ridder, H., Freeman, J. & Avons, S. E. (2000, January). Presence: Concept, determinants and measurement. Proceedings of the SPIE, Human Vision and Electronic Imaging V, 3959-76. Presented at Photonics West – Human Vision and Electronic Imaging V, San Jose, CA.
IJsselsteijn, W. A., de Ridder, H., Hamberg, R., Bouwhuis, D. & Freeman, J. (1998). Perceived depth and the feeling of presence in 3DTV. Displays, 18, 207-214.
Lessiter, J., Freeman, J., Keogh, E., & Davidoff, J. (2000, March). Development of a new cross-media presence questionnaire: The ITC Sense of Presence Inventory. Presented at Presence 2000 – the 3rd International Workshop on Presence, Delft University of Technology, Delft, Netherlands.
Lombard, M., Ditton, T. B., Crane, D., Davis, B., Gil-Egui, G., Horvath, K., Rossman, J., & Park, S. (2000). Measuring presence: A literature-based approach to the development of a standardized paper-and-pencil instrument. Presented at the Third International Workshop on Presence, Delft, The Netherlands. Available: http://matthewlombard.com/research/p2_P2000.html [For more information and/or to download the complete measurement instrument: http://matthewlombard.com/research/p2_ab.html]
McGreevy, M. W. (1993). The presence of field geologists in a Mars-like terrain, Presence: Teleoperators and Virtual Environments, 1(4), 375-403.
Prothero, J. D., Parker, D. E., Furness III, T. A., & Wells, M. J. (1995a). Foreground/background manipulations affect presence. Paper presented at HFES ’95. Available: http://www.hitl.washington.edu/publications/p-95-3
Prothero, J. D., Parker, D. E., Furness III, T. A., & Wells, M. J. (1995b). Towards a robust, quantitative measure for presence. In Proceedings of the Conference on Experimental Analysis and Measurement of Situation Awareness, 359-366. Available: http://www.hitl.washington.edu/publications/p-95-8
Schubert, T., Friedmann, F., & Regenbrecht, H. (1999, April). Decomposing the sense of presence: Factor analytic insights. Presented at the 2nd International Workshop on Presence, University of Essex, Colchester, UK.
Sheridan, T. B. (1992a). Musings on telepresence and virtual presence. Presence: Teleoperators and Virtual Environments, 1(1), 120-126.
Sheridan, T. B. (1992b). Telerobotics, Automation, and Human Supervisory Control. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.
Slater, M., & Steed, A. (in press). A virtual presence counter. Presence: Teleoperators and Virtual Environments. Available: http://www.cs.ucl.ac.uk/staff/m.slater/Papers/bips.pdf
Van Baren, J., & IJsselsteijn, W. (2004). Measuring Presence: A Guide to Current Measurement Approaches. Deliverable of the OmniPres project IST-2001-39237.
Witmer, B. G., & Singer, M. J. (1998). Measuring presence in virtual environments: A presence questionnaire. Presence: Teleoperators and Virtual Environments, 7(3), 225-240.
Youngblut, C. (2003). Experience of presence in virtual environments. Institute for Defense Analyses Document D-2960. Available: http://www.dtic.mil/cgi-bin/GetTRDoc?Location=U2&doc=GetTRDoc.pdf&AD=ADA427495