Do As We Do, Not As You Think: The Effect of Group Influence on Individual Choices in a Virtual Environment

Phil Kraemer


Second Life (SL) is a virtual world application that enables users to create virtual representations of themselves and interact with other users. SL is increasingly being used to study important psychological questions. The current project sought to replicate within SL Asch’s (1951) classic finding of group influence, in which participants often respond in accordance with choices expressed by other members of a group, regardless of the accuracy of those choices. Participants were given a series of perceptual judgment trials, in which they chose one of three stimulus alternatives that matched the length of a target stimulus. Participants were tested either alone or with three other confederate avatars whose choices were predetermined by the experimenter. On two of the trials, confederate avatars unanimously chose incorrectly before the actual participant made their choice. Results showed that on these trials participants were significantly more likely to choose in accord with the confederate’s choices, relative to participants tested as single avatars. The results generally support earlier research on group influence and extend these findings to a virtual world environment.


Key words: virtual worlds, avatars, social influence, Second Life

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