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MU study connects personal health management to online avatars

Daneel Ariantho

Second Life is an online, virtual 3-D world where someone can create an Avatar, or an online representation of themselves.

Elizabeth Behm-Morawitz is an assistant professor of communication in MU’s College of Arts and Science. She surveyed 279 people to find a better understanding of how their experiences with their avatar might affect their life outside of the virtual world.

She says Second Life allows users to customize with avatars: “I think the features of that virtual world in particular might make that experiences more meaningful for the individuals.”

And Behm-Morawitz found the majority of participants felt their ‘second life’ made their real lives more positive, which wasn’t what she anticipated: “We’ve seen with other media in the past, when you compare yourself to an idealized image, say in a fashion magazine, that this would have negative effects.”

Behm-Morawtiz currently has two other studies involving online avatars that are still under review.