Monday, February 18, 2008

Putting Your Best Face Forward

Jeremy Bailenson of Stanford University has been working on studies of political influence, economic and sexual transactions, and public health efforts that use technologies involving virtual humans, according to "Seeing Is Believing: Maybe virtual reality isn't just a game anymore. Maybe it's a way to build a better you." Bailenson has recruited rising star Nick Yee for his team that examines questions about interactions in everyday virtual like like why are taller avatars more aggressive in addition to exploring what one Stanford colleague calls "ancient Greek stuff" about the "essence of self-understanding."

The Bailenson lab is also trying to figure out if people who watch their avatars exercise are more likely to feel spurred to exercise themselves. (Personally when I see my avatar huffing over hills and up stairs in Second Life, I just sort of feel tired.)

There was also an interesting experiment that involved giving undecided voters photos of candidates that had been morphed with images of the test subjects themselves. Apparently potential voters felt more favorable toward candidates that mirrored some of their real-life physical traits, although those who recognize virtual communities scholar Howard Rheingold in this photo may wonder about the lab's experimental methods.

Thanks to no-longer-striking pal John Brancato for the link.

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