How we think about ourselves effects how we interact with the world around us. We can easily accept that there is a link between how we feel and how we behave. Now, for those of us opting to enter virtual worlds, there is a new dimension of self-perception available for exploration, our avatar.
How do we perceive ourselves when we use an avatar? Our symbolic self-representation can carry out actions, and conversations, whilst being simultaneously observed by ourselves. We do not see a mirror reflection of our physical self we see instead an idea of ourselves. This visual idea of self is strangely powerful even though we do not quite understand it. What we see, and how it makes us feel, is of huge interest to bloggers and researchers alike.
- Virtual Meditation (try it!) Meditation cushions available at Buddha Art
Take a look at The Center for Connected Health site which reports on research examining the dynamics of avatars, and the ensuing impact they have upon our self–perception and physical world behavior. Connected Health links to a Time Magazine report that covers a number of intriguing studies carried out by Stanford University researchers and quotes Jeremy Bailenson (of Stanford’s Virtual Human Interaction Lab) who says “When we cloak ourselves in avatars, it subtly alters the manner in which we behave,”
Connected Health also links to a Boston.com report on neurologist, Dr. Daniel Hoch who is researching the effects of teaching the Relaxation Response in Second Life. As he observes, ”There are an awful lot of people creating their own meditation spaces”. This is true! There are many, many virtual cushions with meditation scripts embedded in them waiting to trip up un-mindful avis! All these cushions point to people seeking inner peace, even if only on the level of watching their avatar help land aircraft while seated in the lotus position.
- Exercising by moonlight (Sports equipment available on Virgin Island)
These studies examine how our avatar’s appearance and actions affect us later when we are ‘off-line’. It is intriguing to read in the Time magazine article that people who observed their ‘look-a-like’ avatars exercising on tread mills in Second Life, were more likely to exercise later in their physical life compared to those who just observed their avatars lounging around.
I am now sending my avatar off to exercise in Second Life to encourage me in my first life. I wonder about the effect of wishful thinking here? When I was at school I tried sleeping with my French verbs under my pillow in the hope I would wake up knowing them. (Sadly, it did not work! I suspect a lot of English school children have tried this approach, perhaps this explains why the English are so bad at foreign languages?) Still, it is worth considering the subtle levels of how our avatars affect our self-perception. At the very least this puts a whole new spin on the saying ‘fake it till you make it!’ Maybe it should be ‘Rez it, watch it, do it?’
Demo ball gowns from Sacha’s Designs