Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Avatars Can Surreptitiously And Negatively Affect User In Video Games, Virtual Worlds

Date:
November 11, 2009
Source:
University of Texas at Austin
Summary:
Although often seen as an inconsequential feature of digital technologies, one's self-representation, or avatar, in a virtual environment can affect the user's thoughts, according to new research.

Although often seen as an inconsequential feature of digital technologies, one's self-representation, or avatar, in a virtual environment can affect the user's thoughts, according to research by a University of Texas at Austin communication professor.

In the first study to use avatars to prime negative responses in a desktop virtual setting, Jorge Peña, assistant professor in the College of Communication, demonstrated that the subtext of an avatar's appearance can simultaneously prime negative (or anti-social) thoughts and inhibit positive (or pro-social) thoughts inconsistent with the avatar's appearance. All of this while study participants remained unaware they had been primed. The study, co-written with Cornell University Professor Jeffrey T. Hancock and University of Texas at Austin graduate student Nicholas A. Merola, appears in the December 2009 issue of Communication Research.

In two separate experiments, research participants were randomly assigned a dark- or white-cloaked avatar, or to avatars wearing physician or Ku Klux Klan-like uniforms or a transparent avatar. The participants were assigned tasks including writing a story about a picture, or playing a video game on a virtual team and then coming to consensus on how to deal with infractions.

Consistently, participants represented by an avatar in a dark cloak or a KKK-like uniform demonstrated negative or anti-social behavior in team situations and in individual writing assignments.

Previous studies have demonstrated these uniform types to have negative effects on people's behaviors in face-to-face interactions. For example, Cornell researchers Mark Frank and Tom Gilovich showed that dark uniforms influence professional sports teams to play more aggressively on the playing field and in the laboratory. Peña's research demonstrates how these effects operate in desktop-based video games, and sheds light on the automatic cognitive processes that explain this effect.

"When you step into a virtual environment, you can potentially become 'Mario' or whatever other character you are portraying," said Peña, who studies how humans think, behave and feel online. "Oftentimes, the connotations of our own virtual character will subtly remind us of common stereotypes, such as 'bad guys wear black or dress up in hooded robes.' This association may surreptitiously steer users to think and behave more antisocially, but also inhibit more pro-social thoughts and responses in a virtual environment."

According to Peña, these findings can be particularly useful to video game and combat simulation developers.

"By manipulating the appearance of the avatar, you can augment the probability of people thinking and behaving in predictable ways without raising suspicion," said Peña. "Thus, you can automatically make a virtual encounter more competitive or cooperative by simply changing the connotations of one's avatar."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Texas at Austin. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

University of Texas at Austin. "Avatars Can Surreptitiously And Negatively Affect User In Video Games, Virtual Worlds." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 11 November 2009. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/11/091110211037.htm>.
University of Texas at Austin. (2009, November 11). Avatars Can Surreptitiously And Negatively Affect User In Video Games, Virtual Worlds. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 20, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/11/091110211037.htm
University of Texas at Austin. "Avatars Can Surreptitiously And Negatively Affect User In Video Games, Virtual Worlds." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/11/091110211037.htm (accessed October 20, 2014).

Share This



More Computers & Math News

Monday, October 20, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Japanese Scientists Unveil Floating 3D Projection

Japanese Scientists Unveil Floating 3D Projection

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Oct. 20, 2014) — Scientists in Tokyo have demonstrated what they say is the world's first 3D projection that floats in mid air. A laser that fires a pulse up to a thousand times a second superheats molecules in the air, creating a spark which can be guided to certain points in the air to shape what the human eye perceives as an image. Matthew Stock reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Google To Protect Against Piracy ... At A Cost

Google To Protect Against Piracy ... At A Cost

Newsy (Oct. 20, 2014) — Google is changing its search-engine results to protect content producers from piracy — for a price. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
What We Know About Microsoft's Rumored Smartwatch

What We Know About Microsoft's Rumored Smartwatch

Newsy (Oct. 20, 2014) — Microsoft will reportedly release a smartwatch that works across different mobile platforms, has a two-day battery life and tracks heart rate. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Is Spotify Family A Great Deal Or Catching Up?

Is Spotify Family A Great Deal Or Catching Up?

Newsy (Oct. 20, 2014) — Spotify Family lets you add a family member to your account for half price. Although users are excited, it's a move competitors have already made. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories

 

Space & Time

Matter & Energy

Computers & Math

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins