Know Thy Avatar: The Unintended Effect of Virtual-Self Representation on Behavior

by Victoria Jesswein last modified 2020-08-29T17:32:53-07:00
Gunwoo Yoon1 and Patrick T. Vargas2 1 Institute of Communications Research, College of Media, and 2 Charles H. Sandage Department of Advertising, College of Media, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Virtual environments enable people to experience extraordinary identities or circumstances. People can take on superhero or super-villain roles using digital avatars in virtual space. By acting as these avatars, individuals may learn new behaviors and model their own, real-life behaviors after them (Bandura, 1977; Bem, 1972). The virtual environment is, thus, a vehicle for observation, imitation, and modeling; players’ avatars may fuel these processes. Recent empirical research confirms that the behavior of players’ avatars can affect players’ self-concepts, cognitions, and feelings (Gentile et al., 2009; Greitemeyer & Osswald, 2010). Thus, concepts related to avatar behaviors in general (e.g., fighting against evil) or to particular avatars (e.g., Superman) may affect subsequent behavior (e.g., good deeds). Identification with an avatar is correlated with avatar-consistent behavior in the real world (Rosenberg, Baughman, & Bailenson, 2013). In the experiments reported here, we investigated whether certain types of avatars and avatars’ behaviors could promote pro- or antisocial actions in everyday behavior.

Document Actions