My avatar, my self

By Anne Collier

Neuroscientists are looking into the relationship between self and avatar. A study of World of Warcraft players in their 20s (14 men and 1 woman) who spend an average of 23 hours a week in the game/world was recently presented at the Society of Neuroscience, reports. From fMRI scans of the players’ brains, the study found “next to no difference” in activity in the areas of the brain involved in self-reflection and judgment at times when the players were thinking about their virtual selves vs. times when they were thinking about their actual selves. “Disentangling how the brain regards avatars versus real individuals may help explain why some people spend large chunks of their life playing immersive online games,” the study’s lead author, Kristina Caudle, a social neuroscientist at Dartmouth University, said. In future, she wants “to study volunteers who spend less time playing World of Warcraft to see if there are differences in how their brains discriminate between real and virtual worlds.”

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