Who am I - and if so, where? A Study on Personality in Virtual Realities

Benjamin Gregor Aas, Katharina Meyerbröker, Paul M. G. Emmelkamp

Abstract


Virtual realities form a new technical platform, raising scientific questions about the human mind, communication and identity. There is hardly any scientific research on the influence of a virtual reality on the identity perception and the personality of a user of these virtual realities. The present study attempts to contribute to filling this gap by assessing the potential difference between real-life personality and the ‘virtual’ avatar personality using the online virtual world of Second Life. Dutch participants (N = 34)  were asked to use their own avatar or create a new avatar within this online virtual reality, to communicate with other avatars and finally to fill in a Big Five personality questionnaire (5 Persoonlijkheids Factoren Test - 5PFT) via a virtual interactive testing screen within Second Life. The virtual 5 PFT scores were compared to pencil and paper scores of the same questionnaire, which had been filled in by all 34 participants during a first-year undergraduate test battery, seven months prior to the virtual testing. The results show no difference for any of the five subscales (extraversion, friendliness, conscientiousness, neuroticism, development) between the pencil and paper and the virtual version, suggesting that users of virtual realities do not create a ‘virtual’ personality for their avatar. Furthermore, high scores of internal consistency and high test-retest correlations between the two versions were found, which are very similar to the original test-retest scores of the 5PFT. These findings show the potential of virtual realities as new platforms for reliable (psychological) testing and future clinical applications.


Keywords


personality; virtual online reality; Second Life; virtual psychology

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The full website for the Journal of Virtual Worlds Research can be found at: http://jvwresearch.org