Choose Wisely

Last week I wrote about the power of the learning visual to engage learners in creating their own story. Now clearly the quality of the art and visual metaphor in a learning visual have a significant impact on the learners and their experience, but how about the visuals you choose in other learning mediums, such as the virtual classroom or social learning portal? What role does the avatar or look you choose play in creating your story?

Well, as it turns out, these visual representations can play a significant role. In their book, Connected: The Surprising Power of Our Social Networks and How They Shape Our Lives, Nicholas A. Christaki and James H. Fowler, discuss research that has been done on the impact your avatar or visual representation has on the interactions you have and the perceptions others develop about you.

In one study they cite, individuals were assigned at random either an “attractive” or “homely” avatar in a virtual world. Those who got an attractive avatar exhibited more self-confidence than individuals assigned a homely avatar. Specifically, they had their avatar stand closer to individuals when interacting, on average 3-feet compared to 6-feet for homely avatars. They also demonstrated a greater willingness to share information and initiate conversations.

In another study, individuals assigned a tall avatar were more confident and assertive. They were consistently able to negotiate for a larger sum of money in a money exchange game when paired with someone who had a short avatar.

Perhaps the most amazing finding of these studies was that there was a carry over of the perceptions created in the virtual world to interactions in real life!

As more training and learning takes place through virtual and social technologies, be sure that when choosing your visual representation – choose wisely!

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