points us to a clip from NPR's All Things Considered
discussing some research out of Stanford about how the appearance of your virtual avatar may impact your actions in real life
. In the story, two examples are given. The first is showing a thinner version of you, and letting you see the avatar exercising and getting thinner. Apparently, being able to see that (very fast) "cause-and-effect" really does drive people to exercise more. The second is that if someone has a "more attractive" avatar within a virtual world, once they leave that virtual world, they're more likely to have higher self-esteem and believe that they're better looking in real life as well. In the study given, right after leaving the virtual world, the subjects are told to create online dating profiles and pick people that they thought were their equals. Those who had more attractive avatars picked more attractive real life people as "attainable." The researchers (of course) have their own website
with more info.
While this sounds like interesting research, it seems rather early to draw many conclusions from it. In fact, I'm a little surprised that the Slashdot post about it didn't mention the obvious parallels to questions about research on how people act after playing
violent video games. That research has generally shown that it makes kids emotional, but just for a short period of time -- which would make me wonder how long-term the impacts of seeing these avatars is as well. However, if the goal is to just give you a little burst of motivation to get over some self-doubt or inertia (say, to exercise), then that might not be a bad thing. Either way, the research itself is interesting -- but it's still early. It'll be worth watching what comes out of the research down the road.