Stanford University

Virtual doppelgangers:
Psychological effects of avatars who ignore their owners

Bailenson, J.N. & Segovia, K.Y. (2010). Virtual doppelgangers: Psychological effects of avatars who ignore their owners. In W. S. Bainbridge (Ed.), Online worlds: Convergence of the real and the virtual (175-186). Springer: New York.

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Abstract

For a decade, the Virtual Human Interaction Lab has been creating doppelgangers, virtual versions of the self, for research purposes. This chapter considers how humans may be affected by confrontation with virtual versions of themselves, on the basis of well-established psychological theories, including social cognitive theory (social learning theory), media richness theory (information richness theory), and self-perception theory. Experiments carried out in the Lab, and informed by these theories, have explored such notable topics as health communication, marketing, and false memories. The findings of one series of studies suggest that doppelgangers can show the rewards of exercise and proper eating habits, changing people’s health-related behavior as a result. Other studies showed that doppelgangers are powerful marketing agents and can be used in advertisements to create favorable brand impressions among consumers. Other research documented that children have difficulty in distinguishing between an actual memory elicited by a physical world event and a false memory elicited by mental image or doppelganger.

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