It looks like you're using an Ad Blocker.
Please white-list or disable AboveTopSecret.com in your ad-blocking tool.
Some features of ATS will be disabled while you continue to use an ad-blocker.
...At first glance, increased use of the Internet, virtual worlds, and online gaming are likely to have a negative impact on the obesity epidemic because users are seated and sedentary in real life while they interact virtually. Furthermore, in a virtual world environment such as Second Life (SL) where users can customize their digital self-representations, or avatars, to be as thin and fit as they want to be, there may be less motivation for the users to be fit or lose weight in real life.
However, it is possible that self-representation by a fit, healthy avatar can have a positive impact on real life health behaviors. Yee and Bailenson (2007) use Deindividuation and Self Perception Theory to suggest that virtual reality users may adjust their identity to match that of their avatars. They suggest that “users in online environments may conform to the expectations and stereotypes of the identity of their avatars. Or more precisely, in line with self-perception theory, they conform to the behavior that they believe others would expect them to have”...
Yee and Bailenson (2007) propose that in the first study avatar attractiveness impacted the level of intimacy people were willing to reach with strangers, and in the second study, avatar height affected people’s confidence.
In further research, Fox and Bailenson (in press, 2009) found that humans’ real world behavior is influenced by their own self-representing avatars’ behavior. Their experiment was an application of Social Cognitive Theory, which states that humans can learn behaviors from observing others. They found that people who watched self-representing avatars (i.e., designed to replicate their own physical characteristics) running on a treadmill were more likely to engage in voluntary exercise within the subsequent 24 hours than those who watched either another person’s avatar using a treadmill or an avatar doing nothing.
For example, the University of Houston's Texas Obesity Research Center (TORC) has begun an online program in SL— the largest online virtual world not specifically oriented toward gaming—for the purpose of fighting obesity. It is no secret in SL that many residents prefer their avatars to be thin.
This research study is ongoing, and the above results represent only preliminary findings. However, preliminary results without significance testing suggest that our hypotheses are supported. People who are physically active in SL are also physically active in real life, and people with thinner avatars have lower real life BMIs. Our preliminary research implies no causality in either direction, just an association. Therefore, physically fit people could choose to have thinner and more active avatars because that’s how they exist in real life. Yet, the consistency suggests a pattern that invites further investigation into causal relationships.
In the year since she joined Second Life, where people interact in virtual environments solely through their digital characters, Vanessa admits to doing things she wouldn't normally have done. She grew more social and went out on dates. Her confidence increased and she became flirty with men. On shopping trips, she tried on items that she normally wouldn't wear, but that her more adventurous digital self might. Indeed, the sexier CeNedra became in Second Life, the more confident Vanessa felt in her own skin.
Inadvertently, Vanessa was exploring a provocative question about human behavior that scientists at Stanford University's Virtual Human Interaction Lab (VHIL) have just started to address: Can a person's avatar influence their personality?
Jeremy Bailenson, the lab's director and assistant professor of communication at Stanford, thinks the answer is yes. His research suggests how you perceive yourself in a virtual environment can subconsciously carry over into the real world. Bailenson has shown that a person's behavior can change offline within minutes of immersion in a virtual environment. How this works is still unclear, but the VHIL researchers are trying to piece together theories of the underlying psychology.
Some clinics already use virtual technology for behavioral therapy and treating phobias and disorders. The Virtual Reality Medical Center in San Diego, California, uses the same head-mounted displays as the Stanford researchers. The center's therapists build custom virtual environments to treat a range of problems, from fear of flying to anxiety and attention deficit disorder. Other simulations help cancer patients cope with chemotherapy-related side effects; the therapists also use virtual reality to treat returning soldiers who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Originally posted by LadySkadi
I had never heard of Second Life until I read those studies. Interesting concept...
I'm afraid I'm not that involved in online games, virtual realities, etc. I have a hard enough time maintaining balance and keeping on top of all the things I need to do in my "real" life. Don't know how I would possibly manage both.
[edit on 9-11-2009 by LadySkadi]