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Thread: Avatars Can Surreptitiously And Negatively Affect User In Virtual Worlds

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    Avatars Can Surreptitiously And Negatively Affect User In Virtual Worlds

    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...1110211037.htm

    How do you react to seeing KKK avatars?

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    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.

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    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.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Geoff View Post
    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.

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    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.

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    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.

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    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.
    Defamation-What is anti-Semitism today?http://forums.skadi.net/showthread.php?t=131762

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    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?

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    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.
    -In kalte Schatten versunken... /Germaniens Volk erstarrt / Gefroren von Lügen / In denen die Welt verharrt-
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    -Auch ich verspüre Demut / Vor dem alten Geiste der Ahnen / Wird es mir vergönnt sein / Gen Walhalla aufzufahren?-

    (Heimdalls Wacht, In kalte Schatten versunken, stanzas 4-6)

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    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!

    "Judge of your natural character by what you do in your dreams" - Ralph Waldo Emerson

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