Virtual environments (VEs) are developed to invoke feelings of presence in the digitally created representations, which leads to people perceiving and enacting actions as they would in corresponding real world environments. Even though significant strides have been made in enhancing the level of realism of virtual systems, there is still a long way to go toward a system that could provide full immersive experiences. Furthermore, the development cycle of a high realism system can be time consuming and costly. On the theoretical side, this desire of achieving the feeling of presence is not always consistent with the body of literature on grounded cognition, where the environment is known to significantly impact the user’s perception and action. Nevertheless, many studies have shown that people reported the feeling of presence even though the VEs they interacted with were far from realistic representations of the actual environments. This raised a question as to what dimensions of the environments are essential in triggering the feelings of presence. Instead of taking the approach where a fairly immersive system is used and a particular variable is investigated to ascertain its effects on the feelings of presence, the approach used in the current work investigated whether people reduce the potential injury to an avatar by starting out with a low to medium visual realism environment and scaling up to a higher visual realism. The results in the current study suggest that compared to enacting actions in the real world with one’s own body, people are more likely to bring injury to an avatar. This indicates that high visual realism may not be the essential ingredient in invoking the feelings of presence that regulate risk taking behaviors. The limitation and the next step of this research are discussed.

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