Proteus effect or bodily affordance? The influence of virtual high-heels on gait behavior

Oberdörfer S, Birnstiel S, Latoschik ME (2024)

Publication Language: English

Publication Type: Journal article, other

Publication year: 2024


Book Volume: 28

Pages Range: 1-19

Journal Issue: 81


DOI: 10.1007/s10055-024-00966-5


Shoes are an important part of the fashion industry, stereotypically affect our self-awareness as well as external perception, and can even biomechanically modify our gait pattern. Immersive Virtual Reality (VR) enables users not only to explore virtual environments, but also to control an avatar as a proxy for themselves. These avatars can wear any kind of shoe which might similarly affect self-awareness due to the Proteus Effect and even cause a bodily affordance to change the gait pattern. Bodily affordance describes a behavioral change in accordance with the expected constraints of the avatar a user is embodied with. In this article, we present the results of three user studies investigating potential changes in the gait pattern evoked by wearing virtual high-heels. Two user studies targeted female participants and one user study focused male participants. The participants wore either virtual sneakers or virtual high-heels while constantly wearing sneakers or socks in reality. To measure the gait pattern, the participants walked on a treadmill that also was added to the virtual environment. We measured significant differences in stride length and in the flexion of the hips and knees at heel strike and partly at toe off. Also, participants reported to walk more comfortably in the virtual sneakers in contrast to the virtual high-heels. This indicates a strong acceptance of the virtual shoes as their real shoes and hence suggests the existence of a bodily affordance. While sparking a discussion about the boundaries as well as aspects of the Proteus Effect and providing another insight into the effects of embodiment in VR, our results might also be important for researchers and developers.

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Oberdörfer, S., Birnstiel, S., & Latoschik, M.E. (2024). Proteus effect or bodily affordance? The influence of virtual high-heels on gait behavior. Virtual Reality, 28(81), 1-19.


Oberdörfer, Sebastian, Sandra Birnstiel, and Marc Erich Latoschik. "Proteus effect or bodily affordance? The influence of virtual high-heels on gait behavior." Virtual Reality 28.81 (2024): 1-19.

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