An interesting study published last week looked at whether the virtual worlds we create online are just going to reflect all of the typical biases and ways we discriminate in the real world. This is an interesting experiment because many proponents of virtual worlds suggest that such worlds are largely free from such cultural bias and discrimination.

In one of the most striking findings, the effect of the DITF technique was significantly reduced when the requesting avatar was dark-toned. The white avatars in the DITF experiment received about a 20 percent increase in compliance with the moderate request; the increase for the dark-toned avatars was 8 percent.

“For decades, research has shown that the outcome of that reciprocity-inducing technique is affected by how the requester is perceived, whether a person — or in this case an avatar — is deemed worthy of impressing,” said Gardner.

The finding is consistent with studies in the real world as well as the few in the virtual world that clearly demonstrate that physical characteristics, such as race, gender and physical attractiveness, affect judgment of others.

In other words, many of the same shallow attributes we employ to make significant judgments in the real world are also done in virtual worlds, despite beliefs that it would somehow be different or more ideal.

So the next time you’re in Second Life wondering why everyone chooses to be tall and beautiful, there’s part of your answer — because they don’t want to be discriminated against by others.

Read the full article: Avatar Bias Mimics Real World