Studies have shown that self-resembling avatars in health games and other applications can heighten exercise intentions, but objective self-awareness (OSA) theory suggests that this effect is likely to be true only for those who believe in the ideal of a healthy self. How can avatars be used to motivate those who do not hold this ideal and may not be motivated by avatars to pursue healthy activities? One possibility is to afford individuals the ability to customize their avatar, so they are not only more self-aware but also feel in control of their persona, both of which are necessary conditions for behavior change according to OSA. In order to test this prediction, participants in an online virtual environment created an avatar of the same sex or opposite sex by choosing among a small or large number of possible traits, then completed a series of items measuring self-awareness, sense of control, health-focused behavior, and ideal internalization. Results show that customizing a same-sex avatar can overcome differences in health intentions and behaviors between individuals with high and low levels of prior health-ideal internalization.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Social Psychology
- Applied Psychology
- Human-Computer Interaction
- Computer Science Applications