Playing the Online Hero, Offline

Blog of the Courtier

An interesting study was issued recently by psychologists at the University of Illinois, suggesting that the profile pictures or “avatars” that people choose to use in online gaming may subconsciously influence how they see themselves, and how they treat other people.  Researchers found that when subjects thought of themselves as Superman, they were less likely to harm someone else when given an opportunity to do so (in a minor way) in real life.  Conversely, when the subjects identified with the evil Lord Voldemort from “Harry Potter”, they were far more likely to take advantage of a real-life opportunity to harm someone else – again, even if only in a minor way.

Obviously there are potential implications from this study with respect to violent video games, and these results will be poured over by experts in developmental psychology. However rather than focusing on the negative conclusions one might reasonably draw…

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