Virtual Humans as Co-Workers: A Novel Methodology to Study Peer Effects
34 Pages Posted: 23 Sep 2016 Last revised: 28 Mar 2018
Date Written: March 23, 2018
We introduce a novel methodology to study peer effects. Using virtual reality technology, we create a naturalistic work setting where we embed a computer-generated virtual human as co-worker of a human subject, both performing a sorting task. To control for interpersonal heterogeneity in the ability to perform the task, we first measure subjects' base productivity when working alone. Then, subjects work in the presence of a virtual human, observing the virtual peer, while the virtual human is not observing them. Using tracking data, we can separate between subjects displaying a high work quality from others whose productivity is chance-driven. We find that subjects with relatively low base productivity increase their work performance more when they observe a low productive virtual human - compared to when they watch a high productive virtual human. This result is in line with social comparison theory, in as much as we observe stronger peer effects when the perceived similarity in productivity between the peers is high.
Keywords: peer effects, real effort, virtual reality, virtual human, reflection problem, immersive virtual environment
JEL Classification: C91, J24, M50
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation