Monday, February 10, 2014

Pretending To Be A Villain Makes You One In Real Life?

Madness I tell you!

According to a new study published in Psychological Science, a journal tied to the Association for Psychological Science, Gunwoo Yoon and Patrick Vargas have found results that indicate that if you role play as a bad guy, your interactions in reality will be affected. Basically, act like a jerk in a game you start acting like one in real life.

To me, this seems like a ridiculous concept akin to the "aggressive behavior" studies we have seen over the years. The research is fairly straight-forward, and included a taste test...probably to try and liven up the experiment. 194 undergraduates at the University of Illinois were recruited and given a random avatar: Superman (good), Voldemort (yes, that one, bad), or a Circle (neutral). Already, I foresee problems. But the participants had 5 minutes, yes a mere 5 minutes, to play as their avatar and beat up the bad guys presented to them. After which, they moved to the taste test!

Participants were given the options of chocolate or chili sauce. The first person was given one at random, and then asked to pick either or for the next participant. Those who played as Superman, were more likely to give chocolate to the next player, while those who were the baddie Voldemort were choosing the chili sauce. And circles were, well, neutral.

So many flaws in this study that I don't know where to begin. Starting with the taste test. The results are going to be skewed if the first person received chili sauce. If it were me, heck yeah I would choose chili sauce for the next participant. Why should I be the only one that suffered? It's very easy to manipulate the results of the test when you're starting out with a nefarious incentive to make others suffer for you being stuck with the chili sauce.

Not to mention the avatar options. We know Superman represents good. We know Voldemort represents bad. And the circle is a circle. We have preconceived notions about those characters, even the circle, that make our perceptions about those avatars biased from the get-go. The results of this study would have been more accurate if they created original characters, and allowed for more then 5 minutes of play time. What does 5 minutes accomplish? Nothing if you ask me. So personally, I think this is a revenge taste test and has no bearings on how people really react/respond to a virtual simulation.

The original research can be found online if you are a subscriber to the Sage Journals. But really, the summary speaks for itself. It's a bad study with flawed results.


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