Jeremy Bailenson, an assistant professor of communication at Stanford, studies the way self-perception affects behavior. Bailenson's research suggests that the qualities you acquire online — whether it's confidence or insecurity — can spill over and change your conduct in the real world, often without your awareness. Bailenson has found that even 90 seconds spent chatting it up with avatars is enough to elicit behavioral changes offline — at least in the short term:
About a year ago in my first visit to Second Life, the popular online virtual world, I spent half an hour trying to make my avatar, or online character, look like a hotter version of myself — which isn't easy when you don't know how to use the tools. When I finally made it onto Money Island to mingle, a stranger approached me and said, "Hello there, Devon." I froze. Then I tried to run. I was desperately searching for the teleport tool when my sister walked into the room, peered over my shoulder at the computer screen and said, "Why'd you make your avatar ugly?" I logged off
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