Behavioral inhibition (BI), a tendency to withdraw from or avoid novel social and non-social situations, is a personality trait which can confer risk for anxiety disorders. Like many personality traits, BI is often assessed via self-report questionnaires where respondents rate themselves for frequency of certain behaviors or feelings. However, questionnaires have inherent limitations, particularly in psychiatric populations where there may be unawareness of deficit. A viable alternative may be virtual environments, in which the participant guides an on-screen "avatar" through a series of onscreen events meant to simulate real-world situations. Here, we report on initial development of such an assessment tool, involving several onscreen scenarios with choice points where the participant can select from response options corresponding to inhibited or uninhibited behaviors. In two experiments involving over 300 college students, scores on the computer-based task were strongly correlated with BI scores attained through self-report questionnaire (r > .780, p < .001); this relationship held regardless of participant gender and experience with computer games. The results suggest that virtual environments may hold promise as alternative formats for assessment of personality traits in populations unsuited to traditional paper-and-pencil questionnaire formats due to psychopathology, limited attention span, or poor vocabulary and/or literacy skills.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
- Human-Computer Interaction
- Behavioral inhibition
- Computer-based assessment
- Personality assessment tools
- Virtual environments