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 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. According to the Stanford study avatar-inhabited virtual worlds are becoming the new media to watch. It is our opinion that their growing popularity means they will soon become a main media channel for mind-share and influence in society.
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 for changes in other areas. Virtual reality has been used in fields of medicine, manufacturing, visualization, path planning, entertainment and military applications (1), to name just a few. The scope for use in any organisation is massive. All you need to do is talk to The Virtual Mob
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