Wednesday, July 04, 2007

The Proteus Effect

The armchair psychologist in me just loves this dissertation from Nick Yee at Stanford, where he addresses the issue of transformed identity in virtual environments.

Below is a short section of the abstract (viewable here in total) and here's a link to a
PDF of the full text. Well worth a shufty.
...facial and behavioural mimicry can make us more likeable and persuasive. In addition to gaining social advantages, our avatars (digital representations of ourselves) can also change how we behave. This occurs via conforming to expected behaviours of the avatar - a process referred to as the Proteus Effect.

I conducted a series of four pilot studies that explore the Proteus Effect. In the first study, I found that participants in attractive avatars walked closer to and disclosed more information to a stranger than participants in unattractive avatars. In the second study, I found that participants in taller avatars negotiated more aggressively in a bargaining task than participants in shorter avatars. In the third study, I demonstrated that the Proteus Effect occurs in an actual online community. And in the final study, I showed that the Proteus Effect persists outside of the virtual environment. Placing someone in a taller avatar changes how they consequently negotiate in a face-to-face setting...
This I can TOTALLY see, in micro, since Oolons regeneration.

This change has not n
ecessarily been in a noticeable reactions of others, but in my own confidence and attitude with those around me. People conform to the stereotype of their avatar. Essentially, while the same character and the same person sat here as observer watching the same social relationships, my attitudes have noticeably changed. The new 'physical' AV has made Oolon 'feel' quieter, slightly more passive and 'isolated', and yet this new AV seems to have (and yes, I know how oddly esoteric this sounds) a greater inner strength than before.

This is great work. Truly fascinating stuff. My hat is off you Nick.


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