VIRTUAL SELF, January 2010
Faculty Affiliate Jeremy Bailenson, Professor of Communications, was featured in a recent National Science Foundation (NSF) story for his work in using digital avatars to alter how people view their future selves. With support from NSF, Bailenson created the Virtual Human Interaction Lab to study avatars and their affect on the human “masters.” Bailenson notes, “As a lab, we’ve gone a bit out on a limb and argued that the reason you have an avatar is because an avatar makes you more human than human. It gives you the ability to do things you could never do in the physical world. You can be 10 years younger. You can swap your gender. You can be 30 pounds heavier or lighter. Any behavior or appearance you can imagine, you can transform your avatar to embody.” Sometimes, avatars are designed to be ideal versions of their creators, and there’s now evidence that the virtual reality persona begins to influence the real life persona.
A longevity related example from Bailenson: “I use algorithms to age a 20-year-old undergraduate’s avatar and then I give that undergraduate the opportunity to save money or to spend it frivolously. The undergraduate will put more money in savings as opposed to go out and spend it on partying.” Read moreLOOKING AHEAD TO THE SPEND-DOWN YEARS, September 2010
Using virtual reality to enable people to see images of their “future selves” can affect their decisions about saving for retirement, according to studies by researchers at the Center on Longevity. Professor Jeremy Bailenson, a Center affiliate, Laura L. Carstensen, director of the Center, and former graduate student Hal Ersner-Hershfield, who is now a post-doctoral fellow at Northwestern University, study ways in which technology may help people save.