People who play online role-playing games often assume an avatar - a virtual body that may or may not look like them. New research from the University of Texas at Austin suggests that the avatars people choose to assume could actually effect their behaviour. Participants in the study were randomly given avatars with dark or white cloaks, doctor's coats or Ku Klux Klan uniforms or a transparent avatar. They were then given tasks in the virtual world including writing a story about a picture, playing a video game and deciding how to deal with people who broke the rules. Participants who wore a dark cloak or a KKK uniform - remember the participants did not choose their avatars - consistently demonstrated more negative and antisocial behaviour.
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