May the force of gender be with you: Identity, Identification and “Own-Gender Bias”

Describing a New Experimental Method and New Findings


In this chapter an innovative experimental methodology is described for studying identity by using identification with fictional characters in computerised fictional narrative material (hypertext). This methodology reveals an unpredicted finding that females identify more strongly with their own gender whereas males identify equally with either gender. This echoes other research findings from quite different domains, suggesting a general phenomenon. Implications for further research and how these findings might inform creative communication and mental health practice in relation to gender are discussed.


  1. The experimental stimulus material (in web page or source code format) is available from the author on request. Google Scholar
  2. Aarseth, E. (1997). Cybertext: Perspectives on ergodic literature. Baltimore, MD: John Hopkins University Press.
  3. Bessiere, K., Seay, A., & Kiesler, S. (2007). The ideal self: Identity exploration in World of Warcraft. Cyber Psychology and Behavior, 10, 530–535.
  4. Blake C., Hefner D., Roth C., Klimmt C., & Vorderer, P. (2012). Cognitive processes involved in video game identification. In M. Herrlich, R. Malaka, & M. Masuch (Eds.), Entertainment computing—ICEC 2012. Lecture Notes in Computer Science (Vol. 7522). Berlin, Heidelberg: Springer. Scholar
  5. Boss, E. (2008). Key concepts in forge theory. In M. Montola & J. Stenros (Eds.), Playground worlds: Creating and evaluating experiences of role-playing games. Helsinki: Ropecon ry.
  6. Burke, P., & Stets, J. (2009). Identity theory. New York: Oxford University Press.
  7. Cohen, J. (2001). Defining identification: A theoretical look at the identification of audiences with media characters. Mass Communication and Society, 4(3), 245–264.
  8. Ducheneaut, N., Wen, M., Yee, N., & Wadley, G. (2009). Body and mind: A study of avatar personalization in three virtual worlds, CHI ’09. In Proceedings of the SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computer Systems (pp. 1151–1160).
  9. Freud, S. (2010). The Ego & the Id. Scotts Valley: Createspace Independent Publishing Platform.Google Scholar
  10. Herlitz, A., & Loven, J. (2013). Sex differences and the own-gender bias in face recognition: A meta-analytic review. Visual Cognition, 21(9–10), 1306–1336. Scholar
  11. Holt, L. (1950). Identification: A crucial concept for sociology. Bulletin of the Menninger Clinic, 14(5), 164–173.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  12. Igartua, J.-J. (2010). Identification with characters and narrative persuasion through fictional feature films. Communications, 35, 347–373. Scholar
  13. Järvelä, S., Ekman, I., Kivikangas, M., & Ravaja, N. (2012). Digital games as experiment stimulus. In DiGRA Nordic ’12: Proceedings of 2012 International DiGRA Nordic Conference.
  14. Jorgensen, K. (2009). “I’m overburdened!” An empirical study of the player, the avatar and the game world. In DiGRA ’09—Proceedings of the 2009 DiGRA International Conference: Breaking New Ground: Innovation in Games, Play, Practice and Theory.
  15. Kafai, Y., Fields, D., & Cook, M. (2007). Your second selves: Resources, agency, and constraints in avatar designs and identity play in a tween virtual world. In DiGRA ’07—Proceedings of the 2007 DiGRA International Conference: Situated Play. The University of Tokyo.Google Scholar
  16. Klimmt, C., Hefner, D., & Vorderer, P. (2009). The video game experience as “true” identification: A theory of enjoyable alterations of players’ self-perception. Communication Theory, 19, 351–373.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Kromand, D. (2007). Avatar categorization. In DiGRA ’07 – Proceedings of the 2007 DiGRA International Conference: Situated Play.
  18. Kujanpää, T., Manninen, T., & Vallius, L. (2007). What’s my game character worth—The value components of MMOG characters. In DiGRA ‘07—Proceedings of the 2007 DiGRA International Conference: Situated Play.
  19. Martin, J. (2005). Virtually visual: The effects of visual technologies on online identification. In DiGRA ’05—Proceedings of the 2005 DiGRA International Conference: Changing Views: Worlds in Play.
  20. McCloud, S. (1993). Understanding comics: The invisible art. Toronto: Tundra Books. ISBN 1-56862-019-5.Google Scholar
  21. Montfort, N. (2005). Twisty little passages: An approach to interactive fiction. Cambridge: The MIT Press.Google Scholar
  22. Oatley, K. (1994). A taxonomy of the emotions of literary response and a theory of identification in fictional narrative. Poetics, 23, 53–74.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Rudman, L., & Goodwin, S. (2004). Gender differences in automatic in-group bias: Why do women like women more than men like men? Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 87(4), 494–509.Google Scholar
  24. Shaw, A. (2011). “He could be a bunny rabbit for all I care!” Identification with video game characters and arguments for diversity in representation. In DiGRA ’11—Proceedings of the 2011 DiGRA International Conference: Think Design Play.
  25. Stryker, S. (1980). Symbolic interactionism: A social structural version. Menlo Park: Benjamin Cummings.Google Scholar
  26. Tajfel, H. (1970). Experiments in intergroup discrimination. New York: Oxford University Press
  27. Wright, D., & Sladden, B. (2003). An own gender bias and the importance of hair in face recognition. Acta Psychologica, 114(1), 101–114.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Yee, N. (2017). Just how important are female protagonists? Quantic foundry.

Bibliography / Ludology

  1. Jackson, S., & Livingstone, I. (1982). The warlock of firetop mountain. London: Puffin Books.Google Scholar
  2. Quinn, Z. (2013). Depression quest.

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of TampereTampereFinland

Personalised recommendations