The Proteus Effect, narcissism, and consumer behavior.

McCain, Jessica (graduate student, psychology), & McCain, Jessica (graduate student, psychology), & Sun Joo (Grace) Ahn (2017). The Proteus Effect, narcissism, and consumer behavior. Poster to be presented at the International Communication Association, May 21-30, 2017, San Diego, CA.

Abstract: Research on the Proteus Effect suggests that embodying an avatar causes one to take on characteristics of that avatar, resulting in residual effects of the virtual experience that impact behavioral changes in the physical world. The present study tests whether a personality trait, narcissism, can be manipulated via the Proteus Effect, resulting in changes in consumer attitudes and behavior. One hundred female participants from a large Southeastern university will be recruited to enter an Immersive Virtual Environment (IVE) using the HTC Vive and embody an avatar. Half (n = 50) will receive an avatar of a celebrity that is commonly perceived to be narcissistic, Kim Kardashian, while half (n = 50) will receive a generic female avatar. All participants will complete a shopping task in which they make a series of choices between luxury and non-luxury items. Narcissism, brand attitudes, purchase intentions, and other relevant variables will be measured before and after the treatment. We predict that those embodying the Kim avatar will report higher narcissism scores post-test than pre-test, and that people in this condition will be more likely to purchase luxury over non-luxury items, compared to those in the control condition.

Sun Joo (Grace) Ahn