The Association of In-world Avatar Investment with Expectations of Behavioral Change
We explore whether watching the behavior of an avatar created by a user can affect that users’ behavior in the actual world. This research aims to determine if we can achieve results similar to those obtained from an experimental design detailed in Study 3 of “Virtual Self-Modeling: The Effects of Vicarious Reinforcement and Identification on Exercise Behaviors” (Fox and Bailenson, 2009), but using avatars created by observers rather than experimenter provided ones enhanced with a photographic likeness. Fox and Bailenson theorized that the behavioral change elicited stems from modeling the behavior of physically similar people as supported by social cognitive theory. In this study, we focused more on investigating whether people’s own avatars’ behavior would elicit behavioral change based on social-perception theory. Therefore, users observed their own avatars that were doing exercise or not regardless of any physical similarity between the avatars and their owners. The preliminary results showed there was a strong trend for users to engage in physical activities more when they watched their own avatars exercise, compared to observing their own avatars that did not exercise. The results also demonstrated that users with higher body mass index (BMI) engaged in physical activities more when they watched their own avatars with exercise behavior, compared to users with lower BMI. This study seeks to clarify whether or not the notions of psychological reflexivity and avatar ownership/investment are possible factors influencing avatar owners’ behavioral outcomes.
KeywordsAvatar virtual worlds investment VRE self-perception theory
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