Stanford University

The use of doppelgängers to promote health behavior change

Fox, J., & Bailenson, J.N. (2010). The use of doppelgängers to promote health behavior change. CyberTherapy & Rehabilitation, 3 (2), 16-17.

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Abstract

You don’t like parties: there are too many people and it makes you anxious. Who do you talk to? What do you do? As your eyes scan the virtual party environment, you notice a familiar face across the room. It’s you. There you are, chatting with a group of three strangers. You’re making eye contact, nodding, laughing even. Wow, you’re really having a good time.

Doppelgängers are virtual humans created using photographs of the participant so that they are realistic and bear a strong resemblance to the self. According to Bandura’s social cognitive theory, greater similarity and identification with a model leads to more social learning and imitation of modeled behaviors. Consequently, doppelgängers, which are maximally similar to the self, have many advantages over traditional models. Additionally, this virtual self can be programmed to behave independently of the physical self, maximizing its utility as a persuasive agent.

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