If you own a Nintendo Wii, have played World of Warcraft, or have seen James Cameron’s cinematic spectacle, then you probably know what an avatar is. And because an avatar is simply a representation of yourself that you design, your avatar’s attributes could be as similar or different to you as you wish. [This editor’s avatar is 6′ 8″, has a six-pack, wears only fine European clothing, and has the voice of YouTube sensation Ted Williams.]
Do online avatars have any influence on their real-world counterparts? Researchers at the new Virtual Human Interaction Lab (VHIL) at Stanford University think so.
According to VHIL, while avatars tend to be idealized versions of their users, evidence has suggested one’s virtual avatar does indeed influence a person. In one experiment, a female student’s avatar was shown losing weight by running and gaining weight when standing still. As a result, it motivated this student to exercise more over a 24-hour period. In another experiment, watching a student’s avatar progressively age caused him to want to save money instead of spending it on partying.
With advances in technology continually making the world more and more connected with itself, avatars will continue to evolve also. According to Jeremy Bailenson, creator of VHIL, “avatars will soon play an even bigger role in our lives online. How we shape our own avatars and how we interact with others could have profound influences on our behavior.”
Article from the NSF: Virtual Self…
Image credit: cor23