Confirmed: Using a sexy video game avatar makes women objectify themselves

When we don a virtual reality avatar, our real-life behavior can change, too. Like, for example, when people embody a tall avatar, they have a tendency to act more confidently. It’s called the Proteus Effect. And according to a study from Stanford University’s Virtual Human Interaction Lab, it’s the reason overly sexualized portrayals of women in video games are terrible. According to this research, women who embody sexualized avatars are more likely to objectify themselves, and more likely to say that rape is the victim’s fault. (Always worth noting: It’s not.)

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A total of 86 women participated in the study, donning a head-mounted display that placed them in a virtual environment where they could look in the mirror and see their avatar self, which moved as they moved in real life, dressed either in a sexy outfit or wearing jeans and a jacket. In some conditions, the avatar’s face resembled the woman playing her, based on a photograph acquired earlier in the study. The participants had a get-to-know-you conversation with another person’s male avatar during the scenario, which allowed the researchers to assess how much they were objectifying themselves. While wearing the sexy, short-skirted avatar, women talked more about their bodies, hair and dress than the women who wore pretty everyday clothing in the scenario.

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