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The Proteus Effect: The Effect of Transformed Self-Representation on Behavior


Human Communication Research Volume 33, Number 3, ISSN 0360-3989


Virtual environments, such as online games and web-based chat rooms, increasingly allow us to alter our digital self-representations dramatically and easily. But as we change our self-representations, do our self-representations change our behavior in turn? In 2 experimental studies, we explore the hypothesis that an individual's behavior conforms to their digital self-representation independent of how others perceive them--a process we term the "Proteus Effect". In the first study, participants assigned to more attractive avatars in immersive virtual environments were more intimate with confederates in a self-disclosure and interpersonal distance task than participants assigned to less attractive avatars. In our second study, participants assigned taller avatars behaved more confidently in a negotiation task than participants assigned shorter avatars. We discuss the implications of the Proteus Effect with regards to social interactions in online environments.


Yee, N. & Bailenson, J. (2007). The Proteus Effect: The Effect of Transformed Self-Representation on Behavior. Human Communication Research, 33(3), 271-290. Retrieved November 29, 2023 from .

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