Behind The Screen

We are all used to living in the online world, we are used to creating profiles for websites and characters for gaming to the point where we often do it without thinking. But it turns out that the persona that we create for ourselves in the online world can effect our own behaviour without us realising it.

I stumbled across the Proteus Effect once while surfing the internet for a school project. The Proteus Effect is something I had not heard of but that affects the lives of almost everyone who uses the internet.

Defined as “a phenomenon in which the behaviour of an individual, within online virtual worlds, is changed by the visual characteristics of their avatar.” To quote the ever trustworthy Wikipedia.

Basically what it means for all of us who navigate the virtual world is that the appearance and traits of an avatar we make affect our behaviour.

Online other people believe that our traits and appearance of our avatars link to specific behaviours, stereotypes and expectations. So when because we know that others will expect us to act in a certain way based on our online appearance we end up changing our actions to meet what we think people are expecting from us without realising it.

For Example:

Attractiveness: One study into this found that the attractiveness of people’s avatars impacted how intimate they were willing to be with a stranger.

Height: Another study found that the height of their avatars impacted how confident participants became with taller avatars leading to more confident actions.

There is a lot of information on the Proteus effect online and to me it’s just fascinating to think how the way you customise your online avatars whether in games or on websites can affect how you act with others online. Whether it’s your intention to or not online we may all not be acting as we are but as we think we should and the avatars we create may inturn be altering our actions.


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