channels (text, audio, and visual based) [2, 43]. VEsalso provide an ability to the users to customize their own avatars. In addition, these avatars mimic many physical characteristics and interaction capabilities of the users leading to better engagement of users in theVE . Avatars often are designed to perform anumber of animated gestures that mimic normal humannonverbal communications . Such nonverbalgestures can play a vital role in collaborative tasks thatinvolve users helping identify and explain speci
cobjects or locations to other users .Many of the available VEs do not offer suchcollaboration capabilities directly. However, some VE platforms offer customized tools or objects such asnotepads that integrate with the VE. Users canmanipulate these using their avatar to communicateand exchange information with each other. As such,VEs replicate the look and functionalities of the realworld objects to facilitate a virtual team’scollaboration. In this study, we used an open sourceJava-based platform called
to createVEs to facilitate the electronic brainstorming process.
Priming, individual cognition, and teamperformance
Priming is the activation of internal mentalrepresentations in an attempt to influence subsequent behavior . Priming through visual objects, goals,and stereotypes have been known to have an effect onindividual cognition [4, 6]. Using priming inducedthrough different types of objects or artifacts caninfluence the behavior, attitudes, and beliefs of individuals [6, 26]. Once an individual’s mentalrepresentations have been activated, the subsequent behavior is influenced.Cognitive psychology studies focus on two primary ways of delivering priming – subliminal(below the threshold of consciousness) andsupraliminal (above the threshold of consciousness). In subliminal priming, the individual is exposed tothe stimulus without being aware of it. In supraliminal priming, even though the individual is aware of the priming stimulus, he/she is not aware of its purpose.However, in both cases, the individual is not aware thatthe stimulus is activating mental representations . Inthe human-computer interaction (HCI) domain,supraliminal priming experiments have been conductedto study individual behavior in a virtual setting [14,15]. These studies have found supraliminal priming toinfluence individual behavior on subsequent tasks .Prior research has studied a myriad of ways of priming individuals. For example, semantic priming,that is, priming through the use of certain words, is believed to activate the semantic networks in the brain. Recent research in the electronic collaborationspace builds on this belief. For example, a recent studyshows that an
based computer word-game can improve a team’s idea generation performance on a brainstorming task . In this case,the achievement priming operates by activating thesemantic networks associated with success, motivatingthe team members to generate as many ideas as possible on the brainstorming task. The semanticnetworks are distributed nodes of information inconceptual schema represented in the brain . Thenetworks began to develop as individuals interact withthe world and form a basis of semantic memory that isinterconnected to the previous associations of coreobjects, concepts or beliefs . The networks areactivated and brought into working memoryautomatically, without conscious thought, whenattributes of the object concept are evoked .Activation of the individual’s mental representationthen influences the subsequent behavior.
2.3 Creative visual workspaces
Another theoretical thread relevant to our researchis the effect of visual creativity priming on team performance. In the physical workplace, creativeworkspaces incorporate a number of practical featuresthat lead to creative thinking [8, 13, 19]. Prior literaturehas suggested that the design of the physical work environment and the artifacts present in it has positiveeffect on creativity . Even the layout or spatialarrangement of a creative space needs to be such that itdoes not resemble any aspects of the typical boringdesk-chair environment in offices . For example,high visual complexity, that is, presence of manyobjects, can stimulate creativity . Presence of furniture that supports social interaction and dialoguecan help foster creativity .Factors like presence of windows, visibility of certain natural elements like trees, flowers, and plantsinfluence creativity directly or indirectly by affectingan individual’s mood [50, 52]. For example, a highlevel of luminance leads to a positive mood, influencesideational fluency, and helps improve task performance. Colors are also known to affect a person’s mood. Prior research has examined the presence of certain dominant colors in the office space and their effect on human behavior, mood, and performance. Visual stimulations induced through use of