Shocking findings from a recent Stanford experiment indicate that women are more likely to believe they deserve to get raped if they use a sexualised (sexy) female avatar in virtual worlds like Second Life and Avination. This phenomenon is called ‘The Proteus Effect‘
What is The Proteus effect?
The Proteus effect describes an event where the behaviour of someone operating under a digital persona, adapts to conform to that persona. This is an effect associated with digital self-portrayal.
However this study takes the effect one step further. Not only do we change our personalities when we become immersed in an avatar – we can also change what we believe and how we behave in our real lives to conform to the beliefs of that ‘character’.
The study shows that the mind set created in a virtual world will transform how we behave in the real world too.
“Avatar-based virtual environments, such as online worlds, massively multiplayer online role playing games (MMOs), and video games, are quickly becoming one of the most popular forms of media entertainment around the world.” Jesse Fox, Jeremy N. Bailenson, Liz Tricase
Even though the paper presents having a person’s beliefs changed by identification with an avatar as a negative thing, it has to be recognized that this is not an isolated incident and there is scope and room for changes in other areas.
What are your thoughts on this?