Is desirability of the trait a boundary condition of the Proteus effect? A pilot study.

Abstract: Although previous research has shown that individuals take on aspects of the avatars they embody in virtual environments, studies have not yet tested whether this phenomenon, known as the Proteus Effect, extends to traits that are undesirable to have, such as narcissism. One hundred thirty-three female participants completed a shopping simulation in virtual reality. In this simulation, half embodied an avatar of Kim Kardashian, a celebrity known for her narcissistic behavior and materialistic purchases, while the other half embodied a generic female avatar of similar appearance. Participants then chose between luxury and non-luxury brands for a variety of objects. Results indicated thatparticipants did not take on the luxury purchase behaviors of Kim Kardashian, and in fact showed lower narcissism scores after embodying her than those embodying a generic avatar. These results suggest a self-serving component to the Proteus Effect, in that individuals may only take on desired aspects of the avatars they embody, and distance themselves from undesired aspects.