Study. Online we are less honest and more aggressive

Research shows that the less we feel represented by our avatars, the more willing we are to make morally questionable choices.

In the Internet we are used to behaving worse than in the real world, writing things we would never say, even lying and pretending to be what we are not.

What’s new is that in the metaverse and virtual worlds in general, the situation is not only not going to get better, it’s probably going to get worse, unless some action is taken.

The “Neuroscience & Society” research team of the IIT, led by Salvatore Maria Aglioti, carried out a simple but significant experiment: they developed a video game in a virtual environment in which various participants had to compete in pairs in a game of cards to win real money. According to the rules, the first player had to draw one of two playing cards, knowing that one represented victory and the other defeat. The drawn card was only shown to the avatar, who could decide to lie and favor himself, knowing that no one would find out if he was cheating. The second player continues the game at different levels of identification with the avatar controlled by him. The idea was to vary the so-called feeling of “corporeal belonging”, creating a more or less strong connection with the virtual version, writes La Stampa.

It found that a sense of “diminished bodily belonging” is associated with more selfish and unfair choices, which increase as the stakes rise.

Simply put: the less realistic our avatar is, the less we feel represented by it and the more willing we are to make morally questionable choices.

The study implicitly also revealed the solution: if the problem is related to the ability to identify with the digital alter ego, it is obvious that “to diminish dishonest behavior in future virtual worlds, we could think of systems that increase our feeling of corporeal belonging, implementing graphic and technological interventions on the most used virtual reality devices”, explained Aglioti.

It is not just an aesthetic matter: the researcher Marina Scattolin recalled that “the results are particularly relevant at this historical moment, in which many everyday activities such as meetings, thesis discussions, exams and interviews are moving online of employment (and even medical therapies, no).

In conclusion, if, indeed, in the next 10 years virtual environments will take the place of the Internet as it is known now and conquer an ever greater part of our lives, it is essential that they are well constructed and as realistic as possible.

(source: AFP)

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