Eastwick and Gardner’s (2008) research shows that both foot-in-the-door (Freedman & Fraser, 1966) and door-in-the-face (Cialdini et al., 1975) compliance techniques succeed even in the virtual world of There.com. This suggests that your online avatar (online cartoon character) is as sensitive to influence tactics targeting both self-perception and reciprocity norms as you are in normal life. It appears that users inadvertently import their whole social psyche into their avatar (Miller, 2007). Additionally, there are aspects of the virtual world that get transferred on to the virtual world, e.g. compliance differed depending on the skin-colour (Eastwick & Gardner’s, 2008).
The players gave their consent to be in the study. Eastwick and Gardner used two avatars (light-skinned avatar Josh7899 and dark-skinned avatar Mike1111) and started off the conversation by asking ‘‘Hi, I’m doing a photo scavenger hunt.’’ In the Control condition, the experimenter then made the moderate request: ‘‘Would you teleport to Duda Beach with me and let me take a screenshot of you?’’ In the FITD condition participants preceded the moderate request with a small request: ‘‘Can I take a screenshot of you? ’’ In the DITF condition, participants preceded the moderate request with a large request: ‘‘I need to take a screenshot of someone in 50 different locations. It’s supposed to take about 2 hours of teleporting and traveling. Would you do it? ’’.
People playing inside There.com are able to disregard gravity, time or space but they are not immune from social influence. Hmmm...what does that mean? The virtual world of oddly looking avatars is sufficiently realistic enough to coerce people to be receptive to social influences. The DITF technique proved to be less effective when the avatar was dark skinned, thus implying that reciprocity concerns took on greater importance when the requesting avatar was light-skinned. FITD was not influenced by skin-colour. The figure underneath shows the results of compliance when asked by light-skinned and dark-skinned avatar. The level of compliance is lover for dark-skinned avatar. These results could be explained by either an automatic racial bias imported from the real world or a bias against player who would choose an unusually dark skin tone. Both of these explanations have undoubtedly racist implications.
Importantly, Eastwick and Gardner (2008) demonstrated the applicability of basic social influence principles within online virtual environments. The findings open up a completely new landscape for future social psychology research.
Cialdini, R. B., Vincent, J. E., Lewis, S. K., Catalan, J., Wheeler, D., & Darby, B. L. (1975). Reciprocal concessions procedure for inducing compliance: The door-in-the-face technique. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 31, 206–215.
Eastwickm P. W., &. Gardner, W. L. (2009) Is it a game? Evidence for social
influence in the virtual world, Social Influence, 4:1, 18-32.
Freedman, J. L., & Fraser, S. C. (1966). Compliance without pressure: The foot-in-the-door technique. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 4, 195–202.
Miller, G. (2007). The promise of parallel universes. Science, 317, 1341–1343.
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