Master's Thesis

Investigating the Influence of Different Types of Social Support provided by Virtual Companions on the User's Emotions


Laura Menze


Processing Period:

09.08.2021 - 07.02.2022


This master thesis focusses on the potential of virtual social support provided by an animal companion within in a virtual reality game. Social support is a very well-known concept within social psychology and can be described as the provision of assistance or comfort to others, typically to help them cope with biological, psychological, and social stressors (APA Dictionary of Psychology, n.d.). In general, social psychological effects aren’t limited to happen only within human interactions but also virtual characters (vgl. Krämer, 2008), e.g., videogames praising the gamer have been shown to have the same effects as praise from a human (Prook, Dirk, & Gualeni, 2015). Social support research shows that this concept isn’t limited to human interaction either. It was shown that animals can function as social support providers (Allen et al., 1991; Allen, Blascovich, & Mendes, 2002; Polheber et al., 2013). The beneficial effects of social support were also found within digital environments and even computer games (e.g.: Felnhofer et al. 2019; Guan, 2015; Prook et al., 2015). This master thesis aims to take it one step further and research on the combination of social support provided by digital animal companions but within a virtual environment.