How your online avatar could help you make friends

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Toronto, Jan 10 (IANS) Online avatars with open eyes, a smile or grin, an oval face, brown hair and/or a sweater were more likely to elicit friendship intentions, researchers from Canada’s York University say.

In contrast, a neutral expression or any other expression other than a smile, black hair, short hair, a hat, and/or sunglasses are less likely to elicit friendship intentions.

An avatar is typically an image that represents the self in the virtual world.

Avatars allow individuals to express or suppress various physical or psychological traits in a digital world.

Previous research has shown that individuals typically choose and prefer avatars perceived to be similar to themselves.

In the first phase of the study, participants created customised avatars and in the second phase of the study a different set of participants viewed and rated the avatars created in the first phase.

Creators were assessed on five major traits: openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness and neuroticism.

The researchers found that when rating avatars created by females, perceivers tended to rate them as being more contentious and open, even after taking into account the creator’s actual traits.

Based on previous studies, the researchers expected to see individuals relying on gender associations to inform their personality judgments.

Surprisingly, avatar gender did not influence judgments in typical gender stereotypic directions.

“One possibility is that digital contexts activate different gender stereotypes than in real-world contexts, but more research is necessary to explore this,” said lead researcher Katrina Fong.

Outgoing and sociable individuals tend to create avatars that communicate their personality.

On the other hand, neurotic people tend to create avatars that do not communicate their personality accurately.

“People who are more agreeable and more typical of the general population in personality tend to create avatars that elicit friendship intentions of others,” added Fong.

The study was published in the journal Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin.

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