posted on Oct, 21 2009 @ 12:09 AM
Consider the implications [and] possibilities for social and psychological manipulation... The possibilities are endless...
What does a chosen avatar reveal? Does it influence how you perceive others or how you are perceived? (are you credible, are you intelligent, are you
trusted, etc.) With the absence of physical presence and non-verbal communication ques, avatars may provide a means to identify, relate to and
evaluate and judge others online and if so, they may have have greater implications for a user, than perhaps one thought.
Uncertainty Reduction Theory posits that people's primary goal in an
interaction is to reduce uncertainty about the person they are interacting with. In reducing uncertainty, people strive to understand people's
behavior during interactions as well as to predict future behavior Thus, people strive to 'get to know' or form perceptions of
...because avatars are a visible representation of a person ... evaluations based on the physical appearance of the avatar may be
transferred to them. In other words, people use information related to the virtual image in a process analogous to the one they have learned and used
to reduce uncertainty during their experience in natural environments...
...It is possible that the presence of an avatar is a strong social
cue that influences people's perceptions, leading them to perceive interfaces as more 'social'. Similarly, how people perceive avatars may
influence both the self-perception and perception of others using a particular avatar as well as message perception and retention...
Not only do avatars create a more 'social' online perception, but the 'type' of avatar chosen may directly affect a user's credibility...
...avatars that were more anthropomorphic were perceived to be more attractive and
credible, and people were more likely to choose to be represented by them. The strongest predictor of these variables, however, was the degree of
masculinity or femininity (lack of androgyny) of an avatar. Further, those images with strong gender indications (either more masculine or more
feminine) were perceived as more anthropomorphic than images (whether human or not) without strong indications of gender.
Basically, the findings suggest that people have higher expectations of users with avatars that are male or female (rather than object) and that there
may be consequences associated with those expectations...
...it seems that the characteristics of an avatar may at times provide useful, and relatively accurate, information about the person it
represents... a majority reported a preference for avatars that were 'like' them, at least in terms of gender. This suggests that users may also
want to match other characteristics such as hair color and race, perhaps sexual orientation, or even hobbies...
What are you intentionally or unintentionally conveying with your image?
Did you choose your avatar based on attributes that reflect who you are? Is it possible that your avatar is influencing other peoples perceptions of
your intelligence, your likability, your credibility and your personality? Are you using a particular avatar to convey a meaning?
*Again, consider the implications [and] possibilities for social and psychological manipulation...
full study here
[edit on 21-10-2009 by LadySkadi]