The alter-egos that players adopt in online games can affect how individuals act in real life, according to new research published in the latest issue of the journal Psychological Science.
“Our results indicate that just five minutes of role-play in virtual environments as either a hero or villain can easily cause people to reward or punish anonymous strangers,” says lead researcher Gunwoo Yoon of the University of Illinois.
According Yoon and his co-author Patrick Vargas, virtual environments provide them with “a vehicle for observation, imitation, and modelling” as well as offering individuals the chance to act and feel in a way they cannot in real life.
The pair recruited 194 undergraduates for a pair of ostensibly unrelated studies, first placing each student in a virtual game world and asking them to fight enemies. Each individual was assigned an avatar representing an ethical stance; Superman for heroism, Voldemort for villainy, and a circle as neutral.
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