A Separate Reality: An Update on Place Illusion and Plausibility in Virtual Reality

Mel Slater, Domna Banakou, Alejandro Beacco, Jaime Gallego, Francisco Macia-Varela, Ramon Oliva

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


We review the concept of presence in virtual reality, normally thought of as the sense of “being there” in the virtual world. We argued in a 2009 paper that presence consists of two orthogonal illusions that we refer to as Place Illusion (PI, the illusion of being in the place depicted by the VR) and Plausibility (Psi, the illusion that the virtual situations and events are really happening). Both are with the proviso that the participant in the virtual reality knows for sure that these are illusions. Presence (PI and Psi) together with the illusion of ownership over the virtual body that self-represents the participant, are the three key illusions of virtual reality. Copresence, togetherness with others in the virtual world, can be a consequence in the context of interaction between remotely located participants in the same shared virtual environments, or between participants and virtual humans. We then review several different methods of measuring presence: questionnaires, physiological and behavioural measures, breaks in presence, and a psychophysics method based on transitions between different system configurations. Presence is not the only way to assess the responses of people to virtual reality experiences, and we present methods that rely solely on participant preferences, including the use of sentiment analysis that allows participants to express their experience in their own words rather than be required to adopt the terminology and concepts of researchers. We discuss several open questions and controversies that exist in this field, providing an update to the 2009 paper, in particular with respect to models of Plausibility. We argue that Plausibility is the most interesting and complex illusion to understand and is worthy of significant more research. Regarding measurement we conclude that the ideal method would be a combination of a psychophysical method and qualitative methods including sentiment analysis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number914392
JournalFrontiers in Virtual Reality
StatePublished - Jun 27 2022


  • body ownership
  • measurement
  • place illusion
  • plausibility
  • presence
  • questionnaires
  • virtual reality

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Computer Graphics and Computer-Aided Design
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Human-Computer Interaction


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