The Unbearable Likeness of Being Digital:The Persistence of Nonverbal Social Norms in
Online Virtual Environments
NICK YEE, JEREMY N. BAILENSON, MARK URBANEK, FRANCIS CHANG and DAN MERGET. CYBERPSYCHOLOGY & BEHAVIOR, Volume 10, Number 1, 2007
"A triggered script was used to collect information from avatars in the world. When triggered by a designated key press, the script would collect the name, Cartesian coordinates (x, y), and yaw of the 16 avatars closest to the user within a virtual 200-meter radius. The script would also track whether the avatars were talking at that given moment. The script would then store the information as a text file.
Six research assistants, paid at an hourly rate for 10 h a week, collected data within Second Life over a period of 7 weeks. There were 688 zones (discrete
locations) in Second Life, and undergraduates were each assigned to 115 zones. These research assistants were instructed to systematically explore the zones and trigger the script near locations where a group of at least two people were interacting.
Several types of locations were excluded from the data collection because of activity-specific positional configurations. These were (1) dance clubs,
(2) sex clubs, (3) classrooms, (4) casinos and parlor games, and (5) similar locations where physical architecture constrained position and orientation
(such as movie theatres)" 3
"Our findings supported many of our hypotheses.IPD was significantly larger in male-male dyads than in female-female dyads. The data also supported the Equilibrium Theory. Within the social distance of 3.66 m, mutual gaze was inversely
correlated with IPD. The closer that two people were, the less likely they were looking at each other. We also saw support for the hypothesis that eye gaze regulates conversational flow. The more that two avatars were talking, the more
likely they were looking at each other. Moreover, we replicated the gender difference in mutual gaze. Male-male dyads were less likely to maintain mutual gaze than female-female dyads and mixed dyads. Finally, these gender differences in mutual gaze were influenced by location. Malemale dyads were significantly less likely to look
at each other in indoor locations as compared with all other gender composition and location combinations. This interaction between gender and location makes sense, given that male-male dyads prefer less intimacy, and large IPDs are not allowable in many indoor contexts due to size of the room. Overall, our findings support our hypothesis that our social interactions in online virtual environments,
such as Second Life, are governed by the same social norms as social interactions in the physical world. This finding has significant implications for using virtual worlds to study human social interaction. If people behave according to the
same social rules in both physical and virtual worlds even though the mode of movement and navigation is entirely different (i.e., using keyboard and mouse as opposed to bodies and legs), then this means it is possible to study social interaction in virtual environments and generalize them to social interaction in the real world" (5)
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