The same, but better: How we represent ourselves through avatars

The same, but better: How we represent ourselves through avatars
The avatars people use tend to differ little in appearance and attitude from their real selves, but may amplify some personality traits, according to a new study by U of A researchers. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Most people who create avatars of themselves only make minor changes compared with their real selves, according to a new University of Alberta-led study.

After examining the called Second Life and looking at the avatars and photos of the people they represent—and examining a self-assessment survey of Second Life users— researchers found that people tend to balance their motives for self-verification, to be themselves, and for self-enhancement.

"We wanted to examine which aspects of their identity people choose to embellish and how much, and what these choices imply for their online behaviours," said U of A computing scientist Eleni Stroulia, who collaborated on the study.

While study subjects were found to largely retain identity characteristics, such as ethnicity and gender, they tended to change elements such as , hair and clothing. And part of this phenomenon also appears to translate to behaviour.

"Part of our research says that people with more attractive representations of themselves online report that their behaviour online is more extroverted, loud and risk-taking," said Paul Messinger, a U of A marketing researcher and a co-author of the study.

The same, but better: How we represent ourselves through avatars
Most users create avatars with only minor tweaks to things like body type, hair and clothing, the study showed. Credit: Eleni Stroulia

"We expect that they keep their core behavioural traits, but some of their behavioural traits become amplified or enhanced, just like they enhance some of their appearance traits."

"Understanding these processes might enable us to motivate desirable behaviours in by giving users choices of the types of avatars that inspire these behaviours," added Stroulia.

The study, "Reflections of the Extended Self: Visual Self-Representation in Avatar-Mediated Environments," was published in the Journal of Business Research.

Explore further

New research: What does your avatar say about you?

More information: Paul R. Messinger et al. Reflections of the extended self: Visual self-representation in avatar-mediated environments, Journal of Business Research (2019). DOI: 10.1016/j.jbusres.2018.12.020
Journal information: Journal of Business Research

Citation: The same, but better: How we represent ourselves through avatars (2019, April 30) retrieved 27 February 2020 from
This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without the written permission. The content is provided for information purposes only.

Feedback to editors

User comments