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Nachtengel
Saturday, November 14th, 2009, 06:14 AM
ScienceDaily (Nov. 11, 2009) — 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."

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/11/091110211037.htm

How do you react to seeing KKK avatars?

Bärin
Saturday, November 14th, 2009, 06:26 AM
This is news? Avatars are part of our online personalities, doh.

When I see a member without avatar, especially if he posts in a thread below another member without avatar, sometimes I confuse them. I think everyone should choose an avatar and he should choose it based on his world view.

I've had positive reactions about my bear and cub or mother and child avatars so I think positive avatars have a better psychological effect than negative ones.

Geoff
Wednesday, December 16th, 2009, 12:52 AM
I have always identified users by their avatars, names even. You build your ego/personality around your name and avatar. My views are able to change on a person by their avatar mostly.

Josef
Wednesday, December 16th, 2009, 08:30 AM
I have always identified users by their avatars, names even. You build your ego/personality around your name and avatar. My views are able to change on a person by their avatar mostly.

Speaking for myself, I tend to focus on the avatar even more strongly than on the name, to the point that I will, at times, remember the former but not the latter.

Which is why people suddenly changing their avatars is highly confusing to me. Irritating, even.

Nachtengel
Wednesday, December 16th, 2009, 08:37 AM
It's only irritating to me when, as Bärin said, a few people don't choose an avatar and post below each other, especially if they're from the same country. It's, I don't know, virtual identityless. :shrug

Blod og Jord
Wednesday, December 16th, 2009, 08:44 AM
It took me a while to find my current avatar. I was looking for something to convey my thoughts and I found a few images I liked, but I think this one is the best to do that so far. I change my avatar if I find something better.

If I see KKK avatars, let's just say it doesn't give me an overall positive impression of their bearer.

Oxygen
Thursday, December 17th, 2009, 12:12 AM
I agree with Josef, your avatar becomes part of your identity even more than your name on a forum and in my opinion one should choose an avatar with care and stick with it. Also some avatars give the impression of male or female users as do names and when that don’t match with reality it gets very confusing. I could give you several examples but I don’t want to offend anyone by questioning their perceived virtual sexual orientation. It would be like telling someone they look gay.

Alizon Device
Thursday, December 17th, 2009, 12:54 AM
I agree with all the posters here. These "scientists" would be better off putting their white lab coats on and scuttling off to the oncology wards, to help in the cure for cancer, rather than 'working out' what anyone with an I.Q. above 75 would know for a fact.
How much did that study cost?

Sigurd
Thursday, December 17th, 2009, 01:17 AM
With that news-breaking study those "scientists" are a clear potential nominee for next year's Ig-Nobel Awards. It's a clear case of "d'uh!" Of course our avatars influence how we perceive ourselves and how others perceive us. We usually choose them due to our character, due to what we find aesthetic and due to what we consider important. Even if they are metaphorical, they are often representative. It's kind of obvious that it says a lot about the person. ;)

Thusnelda
Thursday, December 17th, 2009, 12:38 PM
I accept any avatar of other users as pure reality, of course...;) For example, I´m glad to know Sigurd: He´s the only wolf on the world who is able to write in an internet board! :D

Méldmir
Thursday, December 17th, 2009, 12:55 PM
I find avatars often affect me. If someone has a "serious" avatar, I often take the posts more seriously. Like if someone has a pic of someone intelligent-looking person. Or if a woman has a pic of of someone attractive, I always view that person as attractive even if I knew it's not really the user. At least I realize the avatars are manupulating me :P

velvet
Thursday, December 17th, 2009, 02:01 PM
Who the Hel does pay those nonsense studies?!? :-O :rollsmile
I should have become a scientist and have people paying me for surfing online and 'study' *cough* visitors in online games or boards... :D


I find C-Man confusing. Every two weeks or so a new avatar and then mostly females, that's really confusing :wsg

But else, yeah, well, of course an avatar influences how others perceive the user, although I'm not sure if my avatar influences me or the way I perceive myself... hmm... at least I didnt notice yet that I turn into a wild, crazy, fire-spitting troll duck :rofl

baroqueorgan
Thursday, December 17th, 2009, 02:44 PM
I find avatars often affect me. If someone has a "serious" avatar, I often take the posts more seriously. Like if someone has a pic of someone intelligent-looking person. Or if a woman has a pic of of someone attractive, I always view that person as attractive even if I knew it's not really the user. At least I realize the avatars are manupulating me :P

Naturally, when reading your posts, I imagine them being read by this weird giant mother-tree thing that hangs out in the middle of some sort of sparkly cave :-O

Sigurd
Thursday, December 17th, 2009, 08:13 PM
Awww Valky, you can't blame people for chosing avatars that look nothing like themselves. Not everyone can be as blessed as yourself with the healthy look of a proud Bavarian battle-mistress. :P


For example, I´m glad to know Sigurd: He´s the only wolf on the world who is able to write in an internet board! :D

Well, have you never wondered why my activity dwindles once a month, when the moon is full and round? ;)

SpearBrave
Thursday, December 17th, 2009, 09:17 PM
What about if someone else picks your Avatar and it does resemble you, in your work and looks?

In the fun and games forum there is a thread "pick the avatar for the person above" or something like that. Valkyrie posted my current avatar and it does kinda look like me except hair color, I like it and decided to keep it.:)

Chlodovech
Friday, December 18th, 2009, 09:39 PM
Yes, avatars do add dimension to online interaction. And I also prefer the size of Skadi-avatars to the thumbnail-styled ones you might come across on other fora, they limit your options too much.


I find C-Man confusing. Every two weeks or so a new avatar and then mostly females, that's really confusing :wsg

I beg your pardon, Fräulein. :P My avatars, without exception, are the result of deep contemplation. They always contain a higher, symbolical meaning. :paranoid And a good looking woman in function of the larger picture, okay, but everybody likes to look at an attractive lady... I'm merely guilty of having a superior taste, madame! ;)

But yes, I get bored with an avatar after a couple of weeks, or a month, and then I have to get rid of it - I can see why that may be confusing.

velvet
Friday, December 18th, 2009, 10:28 PM
I beg your pardon, Fräulein. :P My avatars, without exception, are the result of deep contemplation. They always contain a higher, symbolical meaning. :paranoid And a good looking woman in function of the larger picture, okay, but everybody likes to look at an attractive lady... I'm merely guilty of having a superior taste, madame! ;)

I didnt say your choices are bad, just confusing ;)
I guess I have the same 'problem' mentioned already, that I often only look at the avatar, not the name, and so I'm thrown off for a moment, hehe. But meanwhile I even know you by the style of your pictures ;)