Some people create virtual characters to escape reality, but a new study is showing that your virtual persona might have more influence on your real life than you think. Research completed at the Virtual Human Interaction Lab (VHIL) at Stanford University in conjunction with the National Science Foundation (NSF) found that when an avatar resembles a person their real world interactions will change depending on how their character acted.
Jeremy Bailenson created several scenarios to test his study. In one trial, he used an algorithm to age an undergraduate college students avatar that looked exactly like them and then later gave that undergraduate money to do whatever they wanted. After using the older avatar, the college students were more likely to save the money than to go out and spend it right away. Another scenario involved creating an avatar that moved identical to the test subject and then asking them to exercise. When the test subject ran in place, his or her avatar would run and visibly lose weight. When they stopped, the avatar would gain weight. What happened after was surprising.
“So, the power comes from seeing yourself in the third person gaining and losing weight in accordance with your own physical behavior,” Bailenson said. “Twenty-four hours later, people exercised more after being exposed to watching themselves run than watching someone else run.”
Maybe there is something to spending time to make that Wii avatar look exactly like you?
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