Researchers explore the effect of journeying through the artificial, virtual world of video gaming
Often enough it is human nature to conform. This tendency makes us follow the lead of computers, even if the machines give us the wrong advice. This is the finding of a study in Springer’s journal Psychonomic Bulletin & Review that investigates how people make judgment calls after playing role-playing video games. The research was led by Ulrich Weger of the University of Witten/Herdecke in Germany.
Real-life encounters and face-to-face contact with other people are on the decline in a world that is becoming increasingly computerized. Many routine tasks are delegated to virtual characters. People spend hours role-playing through virtual-reality video games by taking on the persona of a virtual character or avatar.
Such video games can even lead people to acquire and practice real-life skills and new viewpoints. Weger and his fellow researchers therefore explored how role-playing video gaming influences social behavior and decision-making. Participants in their study first played an immersive game for seven minutes as an avatar. Afterwards, they completed a job selection task in which they had the option of overriding incorrect choices made by a computer.
It was found that role-playing as the avatar in an immersive video game, compared to merely watching others play, makes people identify with a computer. They do so to such an extent that they actually start to conform to its decisions and follow its judgment – sometimes even if it is downright wrong. This shows that people conform, even when opinions are voiced by nonhuman agents. This is especially prevalent in ambiguous cases.
Take me to the complete story: People conform to the norm – even if the norm is a computer