Segovia, K. Y., & Bailenson, J.N. (2012). Virtual imposters: Responses to avatars that do not look like their controllers. Social Influence.
We used ostracism as a platform to study anti-social behavior, and manipulated ostracizers’ avatars digitally to be either physically similar or dissimilar to the ostracizers. In Experiment 1 participants were more aggressive toward ostracizers with disguised, as compared to revealed, identities. In Experiment 2 participants were more aggressive toward ostracizers who had chosen, as compared to been assigned, disguised identities. Experiment 3 added an inclusion condition which revealed that, while volition (choosing versus being assigned) identity disguise does affect how participants respond to anti-social behavior, it does not affect how participants respond to neutral behavior. We discuss the theoretical and applied implications of identity manipulation in virtual and physical worlds.