Video games have long provided a safe way for players to try out different personalities. In the land of pixels and pretend, we can try out the role of lithe, attractive do-gooder elf or become a hideous orc who leaves a trail of havoc (and dead elves) in our wake.
Most of us probably assume that after the game is over, we return to being simple boyfriends, moms, teachers, or accountants operating according to our own moral principles, regardless of the virtual personas we took on. New research, however, indicates that this just might not be the case.
Gunwoo Yoon and Patrick Vargas at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have just published new research in the journal Psychological Science that suggests just how much our virtual personas may influence our real-life behavior. The researchers got 194 undergraduate students to play a game in which they were assigned either a heroic avatar (Superman), a villainous avatar (Lord Voldemort), or a neutral avatar (a circle).
“It was a very simple, two-dimensional computer shooting game,” Yoon told Crave. “Participants were asked to play the game for 5 minutes by using their avatars — with Superman fighting against some villains and Voldemort fighting against some heroes.”
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