Avatars can lead us to reevaluate our opinions

Avatars can lead us to reevaluate our opinions

In the age of social networks, never have our opinions been so expressed and dissected. It is therefore more important than ever to understand how they form, and what can potentially influence them. A study, published in the journal PLOS One, looks at this phenomenon and shows that our moral decisions are much less immutable than we imagine.

The authors of this research wanted to determine to what extent each person’s moral judgments could be influenced by groups, real or artificial. Because our thoughts and our ways of acting are much more subject to the approval of the world around us than we imagine. This is why we tend to surround ourselves with people who think like us in “the real world” and online.

The academics wanted to measure the weight of conformity by conducting an experiment with around a hundred volunteers. They were asked to express their opinion on potentially morally reprehensible behavior, such as a mother punishing her son for poor grades at school or a man making a phone call in the middle of a session. movie theater. The participants then had to judge the same situations in the company of two other people, who did not share their opinions.

It turns out that, in 43% of cases, the volunteers adjusted their judgment after discussing with the members of their group. “However, they did so less often when these judgments concerned situations in which other people were harmed“, says Dr. Konrad Bocian, one of the co-signatories of this study, in a press release.

Secondly, Dr Konrad Bocian and his colleagues carried out a similar experiment with 138 other participants. But unlike the first time, the volunteers were immersed in a virtual environment in which they interacted with avatars. Some of them were supposedly controlled by humans, and others by artificial intelligence.

It appears that participants modified their judgments to align them with those of avatars under the control of humans in 30% of cases, and in 26% of cases when they were governed by an AI. This suggests that social pressure guides our moral opinions, including in a virtual environment. “These days, social influence is increasingly powerful both in the digital world and in reality. It is therefore necessary to determine how our judgments are shaped in digital life, where interactions take place online and some participants are avatars, not real humans“, underlines Dr Bocian in the same press release.

This research improves our understanding of social pressure, which is not a pure theoretical concept but a reality experienced by everyone. However, this subject must be further studied to better anticipate.the potential social consequences of moral conformity in the modern digital world“, as the researchers write.

Good in his body, good in his head!