Can avatars make us healthier?

I just read an interesting note in the June issue of Success magazine.  Editor Josh Ellis reported on work that was done by Felix Chang at Stanford University’s Virtual Human Interaction Lab concerning the influence of personal avatars–those images some of us create to “be” us online, in games, when messaging, etc.

It appears that people change to be more like their avatars.  For example, people with tall avatars act more confidently than those with shorter figures.  In one study, participants who had their avatars eat carrots actually ate healthier themselves.

Furthermore, study participants exercised more after watching their avatar characters lose weight when exercising on a treadmill.

Thought-provoking?  According to psychologist Albert Bandura, it is the similarity to the image that influences one to change behavior.  The more similar we are, the more likely we are to adopt the behavior of the avatar.

On the other hand, I would think that creating an avatar that eats junk food and plays video games all day would have an unhealthy influence on the individual.  This adoption of  negative behaviors was see by researchers studying college students playing video games.  Good avatars brought out positive behaviors and bad avatars resulted in negative behaviors.

Maybe by creating avatars in our image, in our best image, we might change to be just like them.

What do you think?

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