Meaningful Mediated Selves: Examining how game-based mechanisms influence avatar identification and embodiment and thus potentially moderate the Proteus effect
Rabindra Ratan, Chih An Wan, Christopher Kmiec, Celina Wanek, Jiat Chow Tan, Malinda Robedeau, Adam Cockman, Maxwell Miller, Elan Gleiber and Scott Holzknecht
This study examines how specific mechanics of self-mediation — avatar identity and control scheme — induce feelings of identification with and embodiment in an avatar within an endless-runner game designed for these research purposes. Findings from a lab-based, within-subjects experiment with 70 participants suggest that these mechanics influence identification and embodiment, mostly with medium and large effect sizes. Using an own-identity (compared to a randomly generated) avatar led to the highest amount of identification and also contributed positively to embodiment. Having a greater amount of control over the avatar led to the highest amount of embodiment and also contributed positively to identification. More interestingly, when using an own-identity avatar, identification was higher when the control scheme led to a low rather than high amount of cognitive load. Conversely, when using a randomly generated avatar, identification was higher when the control scheme led to a high rather than low amount of cognitive load. These findings are consistent with previous research and also contribute new theoretical insights about the psychological mechanisms of the Proteus effect. Such insights will inform future research and interventions that apply the Proteus effect toward positive outcomes in meaningful societal contexts, such as education and health.