Can the Persona you adopt in Games spill over to the Real world?

Posted on January 27, 2014

Can the experience of "being" a heroic or villainous avatar nudge people toward uncharacteristic behavior later on, in real life?

Modern gaming technology has enhanced the fantasy experience in ways that Thurber could never have imagined, so that it's now possible to enter virtual worlds and, as avatars, assume not only the identity but the perspective of fantastic characters. Can the experience of "being" a heroic or villainous avatar nudge people toward uncharacteristic behavior later on, in real life?

Two psychological scientists at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Gunwoo Yoon and Patrick Vargas, were concerned enough about this possibility that they decided to explore it in a couple simple experiments. They began by recruiting volunteers and fooling them into thinking they were taking part in two different studies. One was a test of a new game, and the other was an unrelated taste test. In actuality, the scientists wanted to see if the gaming experience determined the way that volunteers treated others later on. The subjects played the game for five minutes, taking on either the heroic identity of Superman or the villainous identity of Voldemort. A third group, the controls, was assigned a neutral geometrical avatar -- a circle.

oon and Vargas anticipated that the players who were heroic in the virtual world would be more magnanimous in real life, and that the virtual villains would be more, well, villainous. And that's precisely what they found. Those who played the good avatar portioned out more chocolate than did either the virtual villains or the controls. And conversely, the virtual villains' actions were toxic, like the chili itself.

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Source material from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/wray-herbert/know-thy-avatar-good-and_b_4644183.html


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