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Researchers Find Racial Bias In Virtual Worlds 592

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the big-shocker dept.
schliz writes "Real-world behaviours and racial biases could carry forward into virtual worlds such as Second Life, social psychologists say. According to a study that was conducted in There.com, virtual world avatars respond to social cues in the same ways that people do in the real world. Users, who were unaware that they were part of a psychological study, were approached by a researcher's avatar for either a 'foot-in-the-door' (FITD) or 'door-in-the-face' (DITF) experiment. While results of the FITD experiment revealed no racial bias, the effect of the DITF technique was significantly reduced when the experimenter took the form of a dark-skinned avatar."
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Researchers Find Racial Bias In Virtual Worlds

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  • RACIST! (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 11, 2008 @08:45AM (#24960431)

    You're just saying that because I'm blue...

    • Re:RACIST! (Score:5, Funny)

      by smitty_one_each (243267) * on Thursday September 11, 2008 @09:24AM (#24960893) Homepage Journal
      No, no.
      Driving the Indy car around was the give-away you're a racist.
      • by sumdumass (711423)

        Whats that have to do with racism? Or arre you just attempting to trash based on stereo types?

        • Re:RACIST! (Score:5, Funny)

          by mikiN (75494) on Thursday September 11, 2008 @10:12AM (#24961615)

          Me stereo beat you stereo anytime! Me have latest JVC with latest amp, 800 Watts max. beat you puny GE hands down! I rig up my EQ lights to supa dupa neon and blinkers, see? 6" woofers in my tailpipes, add 10 horsepower easy! Wanna race? Honda Type R rulezzz!

          s/r/l/g

        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by sumdumass (711423)

          Shit, now I get it. Race car driver, Racists.

    • Re:RACIST! (Score:5, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 11, 2008 @09:52AM (#24961295)

      You're just saying that because I'm blue...

      You think that's bad... The jerk down the street who is half black, half white thinks he's all that. Here is a picture of him (on the left, me on the right) [technabob.com]. Look at that smug expression. What a prick. Just like the rest of his kind.

      Everyone knows that my people, those of us who are half white, half black are the superior ones!

    • Re:RACIST! (Score:5, Funny)

      by Yvan256 (722131) on Thursday September 11, 2008 @09:56AM (#24961357) Homepage Journal

      "You know when it comes to racism, people say: " I don't care if they're black, white, purple or green"... Ooh hold on now: Purple or Green? You gotta draw the line somewhere! To hell with purple people! - Unless they're suffocating - then help'em." - Mitch Hedberg

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by dgatwood (11270)

        They're discriminated against by nature. More specifically, they had better watch out for the one-eyed, one-horned, flying purple people eater....

    • Re:RACIST! (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 11, 2008 @11:22AM (#24962941)

      I had made a blue female character in Second Life. She was blue, but she had a beautiful body. If racism includes every guy (and most of the women) that saw her offering sex, yes, racism is present.

          When I made a white male character in the same game, he didn't get the same attention.

          Then I changed the blue female character to a pale white female character. The result was just about the same.

          My conclusion. Guys want to have sexual relations with hot women, regardless of their color.

  • FITD vs DITF (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Bryan Ischo (893) * on Thursday September 11, 2008 @08:46AM (#24960437) Homepage

    I had never heard of the Foot-In-The-Door experiment or Door-In-The-Face experiments before reading the article. Turns out they are actually very interesting and clever experiments which reveal behavioral tendencies the explanation of which is plausably related to how a person sees themselves (in the FITD case) or how they see others (in the DITF case).

    In a nutshell, if someone makes a small request of you that you are likely to agree to, then you will be more likely to agree to a second, larger request, because you will have seen yourself as being helpful in complying with the first request and want to continue being helpful by complying with the second request.

    And, if someone makes a large request of you, a request so onerous that most people would not accept it, then you will be more likely to agree to a smaller second request, to a greater extent than you would have had you not been asked the first, more onerous request. The explanation for this is that you are trying to reciprocate on the asker's reducing the size of their request by increasing your willingness to respond to a request beyond what your base level would otherwise be. It's a kind of a subconscious negotiation process that you are engaging in with someone else, basically meeting them halfway.

    However, this second scenario is affected by how worthy you subconsciously believe that the other person is of this kind of negotiation (the first scenario is not because your response is affected by how you see yourself, not how you see the asker). And apparently, if you perceive the other person as being unworthy of this kind of negotiation, then you are less likely to meet them halfway and agree to the second request.

    OK, so, this article basically says that darker-skinned avatars in virtual worlds essentially are less likely to be met halfway, ostensibly because, on average, they are perceived as being less important than lighter-skinned avatars.

    I don't think it should come as a surprise to anyone that people's racial biases are carried through to a virtual world from the real world. So in a sense, this whole article, aside from being informative about some interesting psychological tests and their results, is kind of one big 'no duh'.

    What would be really interesting to know is if, in these situations, there is a greater degree of this kind of bias in one race or socioeconomic class than another, or if it's universal.

    Also, I would just like to point out that racial bias does not necessarily mean racism. I personally believe that racial bias is a natural part of the human psyche, and as long as it is recognized, and understood, and does not adversely disadvantage any particular group of people, should be accepted. But that's just me.

    • Re:FITD vs DITF (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Daimanta (1140543) on Thursday September 11, 2008 @08:54AM (#24960513) Journal

      "Also, I would just like to point out that racial bias does not necessarily mean racism. I personally believe that racial bias is a natural part of the human psyche, and as long as it is recognized, and understood, and does not adversely disadvantage any particular group of people, should be accepted. But that's just me."

      Well, it looks like you defined racism very properly. Being biased based on the color of skin is being racist. I do not judge about it, just saying that it is.

      "I'm not racist, I'm racially biased!" is something most people would laugh at.

      • Re:FITD vs DITF (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Gerzel (240421) <brollyferret@NoSPaM.gmail.com> on Thursday September 11, 2008 @09:03AM (#24960597) Journal

        Most people would laugh at a lot of things that when thought about are true. People laughing is not a good test for truth, veracity, or factuality in nearly all cases.

        The term 'racist" carries with it strong connotations of ignorance and bigotry, and it is unfair to call someone who it honestly attempting to be fair and equal with all people regardless of race racist if they still possess some small racial bias outside a strictly academic field.

        • Re:FITD vs DITF (Score:5, Insightful)

          by hey! (33014) on Thursday September 11, 2008 @09:57AM (#24961371) Homepage Journal

          Well, we all have many cognitive biases, such as sample bias and so forth. Of the socially learned biases, racial bias is the most widespread of all, so all things being equal one can assume that one carries at least a bit of it.

          I think, however, that being a racist has to do with how you rationalize your biases.

          Suppose you don't like somebody who happens to be green skinned, and somebody puts the race card on the table. I think virtually everybody would, at least initially, deny race has anything to do with it. It seems that we can consider a range of responses:

          (1) Maybe I am being racist. Let me think about it.

          (2) No, I don't like him because he doesn't listen and he interrupts.

          (3) He is disrespectful.

          (4) Green people are ignorant; they should keep their mouths shut unless spoken to.

          Response 3 is right on the cusp of racism. It's not necessarily different from 2, it's just the point where you go from specifics about behavior to generalizations about the person. Those generalizations can be drawn from two sources: the behavior of the individual, and stereotypes about the race. If you are drawing your generalization from 2 it is not racist; if you are drawing your generalization from 3 it is.

          In a society where racism is strongly frowned upon, it's not always obvious when somebody is drawing a characterization from a stereotype and when he is drawing it from an individual's behavior. In fact, you can do both, since people are very skillful at seeing what they expect to see.

          That's what makes racial bias insidious when we draw conclusions about people's general character. It is possible to be unconsciously racist. But it's also generally wiser in all instances to avoid generalizations about a person if it is not strictly necessary. Racism is only one kind of bias.

          • Re:FITD vs DITF (Score:5, Interesting)

            by photon317 (208409) on Thursday September 11, 2008 @10:55AM (#24962351)

            Race isn't the only determinant either, though. Also consider that generalization is a common and useful human optimization for the problem of not knowing everyone in a large society well enough to judge them accurately on their individual merits.

            I don't consider myself a racist because I don't believe that the color of a person's skin is a direct determinant of their behavior. But certainly I do make a lot of rational generalizations about the behaviors of groups of people to better inform my initial reactions to them, and some people like to cry "racism" when they see this behavior.

            For example, I react very different when approached by a stranger on the street depending on the obvious clues about their social stature. If they're clearly middle or upper class based on the clothing, mannerisms, speech, and behavior cues, I'm more likely to be receptive to the approach. On the other hand if they're clearly a street bum, I'm a lot more wary and guarded, because that class of people are known to scam people like me on the street on a regular basis.

            If the bum happens to be black, it's easy for someone (perhaps the bum himself) to accuse me of racism, when I'm not in fact racist.

            • Re:FITD vs DITF (Score:4, Informative)

              by hey! (33014) on Thursday September 11, 2008 @12:36PM (#24964263) Homepage Journal

              Well, I can't disagree with what you're saying. People do use rules of thumb, and as I said, it's not always possible to know which rules of thumb are being used, if any.

              However, if I were to summarize my point more succinctly, racism is a form of ignorance; or perhaps more precisely it is refractory pattern of ignorant thinking. I wouldn't call somebody a racist because they're scared of a black bum. I'd call them racist on the basis of how they justify being scared of that individual.

              Racists show a pattern of intellectual impoverishment, factual carelessness, and malignant narcissism in their thinking. For example, they'd say, "My saying that bum is dangerous is not racist, because some of my best friends are black." This kind of answer shows all three patterns.

              (1) Intellectual impoverishment: who the person associate with, in itself, has no logical connection to whether his opinion is justified.

              (2) Factual carelessness: in most cases it is doubtful that black persons the claimant knows could really be describe as among his "best friends". The most common form factual carelessness takes is imperviousness to contrary information or facts, but this illustrates the way that "facts" are conjured or banished strictly according to need.

              (3) Malignant narcissism: the person is claiming that his ideas are literally above or beyond reproach because they belong to him.

              Racial bias is simply cognitive bias. Cognitive biases have their advantages in certain situations even though they are wrong. Racism is ignorant and broken thinking.

              Cognitive bias doesn't mean we're doomed to ignorance. Because we tend to have bad intuitions about, say, probability doesn't preclude our surmounting those cognitive biases and becoming statistically literate. Because we have racial bias doesn't mean we're doomed to be racists. It just means we have to put in more effort.

            • Re:FITD vs DITF (Score:4, Interesting)

              by DangerFace (1315417) on Thursday September 11, 2008 @12:54PM (#24964565) Journal

              Couldn't agree more. For some time I had a lot of difficulty understanding this, and it bothered me in the head. I'd see a group of young black or Asian or whatever people and start to get scared. I now realise that the reason I'm scared of those poeple is, primarily at least, because they wear tracksuits and listen to gangsta rap in a not-at-all-ironic way, and generally the image they are trying to put across to the world is 'I want to stab you up'. This is easy to notice the first time you meet a few hippy/goth/whatever folks that just so happen to be 'ethnic', or whatever the word is today - it's easy not to notice at all.

              And this is where racial bias comes in - if I saw some white kids that wanted my phone, I'd just think 'tw@'. If they are black, I think 'Tw@. Oh crap, I just looked at a black person and thought they were a tw@. I must be a racist! Racists are bad! Therefore I am bad!'.

              Similarly, I generally have a pretty permanent scowl - I try working on it, but it just looks like I have a creepy smile instead. Anyways, this leads me to not want to look at minorities of any kind, because my generic expression is either one of seething hatred or psychosis, and I don't want them thinking they got a dirty look when they just got a look from someone dirty. It's a difficult balance to strike, because you should take people's differences and similarities into account, but constantly being aware of who I might offend makes for an uneasy bus ride as well as a subconscious desire not to be around 'minorities' because of the unease it instills in me by virtue of my liberal upbringing.

            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by LGagnon (762015)
              No, you are not, for the most part, racist; what you are is classist, which, at least in the United States, is heavily tied to racism. You might behave that way for different reasons, but it is still bigotry with basically the same effects.
              • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

                It's not bigotry. GP's point was that he is trying to correlate the looks of individual to behavior that can be expected from him. For the most part, such correlation is fairly straightforward, and it actually works (as in, certain visual clues correlate strongly with certain kinds of antisocial behavior). Staying away from a bum is a smart move because there is a high probability that he has nothing good in mind regarding you. So is staying away from a stereotypical-looking "gangsta nigga" who clearly made
            • by phorm (591458) on Thursday September 11, 2008 @02:54PM (#24966801) Journal

              I moved from a smaller city in western Canada to a large city in Ontario. Culturally, Canada is a pretty good mixing pot in general, but there's definitely a bigger mix here.

              Hopefully I'm being honest with myself when I say that I didn't come with a lot of preconceptions about certain races/origins. I had never really met people from these places before, and had nothing to form an opinion on (either positive or negative).

              However, I have come to recognize certain patterns derived from cultural backgrounds of various ethnicities.

              Do these apply all the time: no. But they do apply often enough that one begins to profile, even if unwillingly, various others. Ways of doing business, driving habits, etc, can be very strongly influenced by one's origins. Certain countries have driving conditions much different than here, and it seems their driving habits often reflect this. Certain countries do business differently, and their business-habits reflect this. What's polite in one place can be rude in the other.

              So, when coming across people from these various origins, whether driving on the road, in the store, or elsewhere, is it truly racist to have some bias based on prior experience?

              If 85% of purple people tend to drive aggressively (maybe because in their originating country traffic patterns dictated this as normal), is it racist of me to take extra care when driving around somebody that appears to be of this origin?

              If people from a predominantly Mauve country have a tendency to fudge facts on their resume (maybe it's easier due to corruption/politics in that country), what does it mean if I take extra care to verify the details of a Mauve person's resume.

              One of the things I hate these days is feeling like a racist due to situations like the above. What's racism and what's prudence. Certainly I wouldn't hire a less-skilled Blue person over a more-skinned Orange person over personal bias, nor would I intentionally treat either one person with less respect. But what's bias, what's profiling, and what's experience?

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Sj0 (472011)

            What about racism/generalisations based on empirical evidence?

            Government data for my area shows a certain demographic group tends to be overwhelmingly unemployed, they form an overwhelming majority of criminals in prisons, and outside of government data, there is only one gang in my area, and it is a racist gang devoted soley to this demographic. This gang is composed soley of this one demographic, and the name includes a slightly anachronistic name of the demographic.

            Given that data shows an overwhelming c

      • Re:FITD vs DITF (Score:5, Interesting)

        by HungryHobo (1314109) on Thursday September 11, 2008 @09:11AM (#24960701)

        Back in the day I used a simple method of getting into clubs without challenge.
        I wore black.
        In the same style as the bouncers.

        The basis: Since I was dressed the same as the bouncers they were more inclined to treat me in a positive way.
        And it worked.
        very very well.
        When I didn't wear black I tended to be challenged much more etc.

        Now people are hardwired to act like this. Someone who dresses the same, acts the same looks the same is more likely to be trusted than someone who looks or acts in a very different manner.
        It's tribalism. Wanna bet you're immune?

        As far as I'm concerned skin colour is no more important than hair colour.(damn dirty gingers!)Is reacting more positively to someone with brown hair than to someone with blond hair racist?

        • by Daimanta (1140543)

          "Wanna bet you're immune?"

          Don't put words in my mouth.

          I never said that I did. But you need to call a cow a cow and downplaying racism by calling it "racially biased" is a way to dodge accusations of racism.

          Nobody would accept it from a klanmember so it is merely an excuse to be racist and politically correct at the same time.

          • Re:FITD vs DITF (Score:5, Insightful)

            by HungryHobo (1314109) on Thursday September 11, 2008 @09:32AM (#24961005)

            Interesting though that I can say "I only find women with black hair attractive"
            and nobody will blink.
            If I however say "I only find women with black/white skin attractive"
            Suddenly I'm a flavour of racist.

            Hell I could probably get away with including "applicants must have black hair" on a job ad and get away with it.

            they're both nothing more than pigments but if you use one to make a descision about people then you're a dirty racist.

            Down with Hairism!

            • Re:FITD vs DITF (Score:5, Insightful)

              by Daimanta (1140543) on Thursday September 11, 2008 @09:36AM (#24961063) Journal

              Guess what, that's totally true.

              It's just that it doesn't play a major role in society that nobody cares about it. The only thing I can think of is people with ginger hair. Those people are called lighthouses as a derogatory word where I live.

              It's just as crappy as racism.

              • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

                by thedonger (1317951)

                But is it wrong for me to not like someone because they appear different than me? Keeping in mind that I am talking not about the subjugation of a class of people, or violence or harassment, but rather the simple notion that there is nothing wrong with not liking someone.

                More to the point of this experiment, a "black" avatar carries with it no other weight than the subject's own perceived bias. In other words, if a dark-skinned person wearing the latest urban fashion approached them, they would react the s

            • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

              by Ihmhi (1206036)

              I don't think there were as many people enslaved or killed over the color of their hair as there were the color of their skin.

              He's a Hairist! Shun! Shuuuuuun!

      • by zappepcs (820751)

        Absolutely right. Are we supposed to be emo biased because we don't like the makeup? When we see emo makeup, should we stop and evaluate each person personally, or simply assume they are emo? Cultural bias is natural, and in fact there is evidence that biologically, we choose mates based on it. When someone falls outside our 'culture' we are biased against them. That is how life is, socially, biologically, realistically! period.

        Yes, when you go looking for bias, you will find it, and if you look for bias ag

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by mcgrew (92797)

      From the "whoda thunkit department". Offline racists are racist online too! Wow!

      It isn't PC to say this, but African-Americans (I apologize if the term "African American" offends you, I'd be offended if you called me an Irish-American as I'm an American first, but some blacks insist on the term, and some people are offended all too easily) have been shown to have more of a bias against dark skin than white people.

      Skin bleaching [google.com] doesn't affect any African racial clue except skin color. Black people don't hav

      • I assume that in the US, racism of black people among themselves might be less prevalent, but, yes, it exists. Here in Brasil (zil for you USers) it is rather common. Being no sociologist, I would say it comes from a low-self esteem, derived from the lack of people you perceive similar to you in commendable positions.

        I would invite you to watch brazilian television. If you know nothing about where it came from, you might guess you were in Sweden. I've seen more black/dark colored skinned people on TV when

    • by Moraelin (679338)

      Well, I must sort of wonder about the first scenario. Turning it into basically just "how helpful you see yourself as" seems to me a bit of a simplification.

      Basically the base objection is that i see myself as a helpful guy generally, not as "helpful towards Bryan's char". From there, this is modified further more by how I see _them_, than by how I see myself.

      Assuming it was a perfect stranger and thus doesn't start with any other "modifier" to my reaction towards them: from my experience with other online

    • Ah ha! You've successfully snuck a relatively good synopsis of TFA into your /. post! Well played, sir! (Disclaimer: If you're female, I'm sorry. You must be an extremely unhappy woman having a name like Bryan.)

    • I don't think it should come as a surprise to anyone that people's racial biases are carried through to a virtual world from the real world. So in a sense, this whole article, aside from being informative about some interesting psychological tests and their results, is kind of one big 'no duh'.

      I heard---sorry, I can't give you a reference, so mod me -1 Bad Scholar---about a very interesting psychological study. People are very good at post-hoc rationalizing, i.e. saying "well that's obvious", but if you ask them to predict the seemingly obvious outcomes of psychological studies, they do no better than chance.

      It could have been that the characters in the virtual world were placed at the exact spot in the uncanny valley where we subconsciously cease seeing them as humans. So you can't a priori sa

  • More? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mistersooreams (811324) on Thursday September 11, 2008 @08:53AM (#24960505) Homepage

    A relatively interesting experiment, no doubt, but the article didn't answer a lot of obvious and relevant questions.

    First, how big was the sample size? Everything is given as percentages and we all know how meaningless they can be if the number of people tested is small.

    Second, what is the racial demographic of the users on There.com? There are plenty of parts of the world, e.g. Russia, where racism (in particular against black people) would not come as a surprise to anyone. If the demographic is primarily American or European then it would be slightly more surprising.

    Third, and this is just curiosity, how many people actually complied with the first (totally unreasonable) request in the DITF experiment?

    • by arth1 (260657)

      Another issue with this experiment is that it by nature can not be a double blind test. The racial bias of the researcher is going to be reflected. If the researcher acted slightly differently depending on the "skin" she wore, this would change the resulting reaction. It doesn't have to be conscious on the part of the researcher either.

      Unless the number of both researchers and subjects was really high, I would say the value of this study is rather low, not to say insignificant.

      • by fractic (1178341)

        Another issue with this experiment is that it by nature can not be a double blind test.

        Why couldn't it be double blind? Just have one researcher see only the textual communication and decide which questions to ask while another researcher actually controls the avatar.

        • by arth1 (260657)

          That still wouldn't be double blind. The person directing the avatar might do it differently depending on what kind of skin the avatar wore, e.g. by how close the avatar was moved to the subject, how still you stand, and many other non-verbal factors.

          One solution would be to hack the client and have it always display the same avatar to the controllers, while randomly showing a different one to people at the other end. And not disclosing the order until after all the runs.

  • by psergiu (67614) on Thursday September 11, 2008 @08:54AM (#24960511)

    He just needed more /b/lackup in order to finish the experiment :)

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Actually, mod this informative... In SL at least, the use of black avatars for raiding has caused the moderators to be racist to black avatars. The moment someone in a black avatar does something funny they will usually get banned and MAC/HD serial banned.

      Although I don't get why people are still doing research in virtual worlds. The entire VW industry is moving away from the notion of a user-created 'metaverse' to a corporate-controlled 'adverworld'. To the average slashdotter this seems horrible, but then

  • by Chrisq (894406) on Thursday September 11, 2008 @08:55AM (#24960523)
    I saw a TV program that demonstrated that people are more likely to help an injured jogger if he is wearing the same team's football shirt. It is not necessarily racist
    • tribe identity (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Shivetya (243324)

      people are more likely to assume the good will of others if they are like themselves, being race, religion, sex, or nationality.

      Of course extreme situations can change this behavior.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by larry bagina (561269)
      please rephrase with cars. No one here understands this "jogging" or "football" you speak of.
  • by El_Muerte_TDS (592157) <{elmuerte} {at} {drunksnipers.com}> on Thursday September 11, 2008 @08:56AM (#24960529) Homepage

    According to a study [...] virtual world avatars respond to social cues in the same ways that people do in the real world.

    Isn't that caused by the fact that those virtual world avatars are controlled by people in the real world?

  • by WDot (1286728) on Thursday September 11, 2008 @08:58AM (#24960543)
    I have both light-skinned and dark-skinned characters in Guild Wars. I'd say I regularly get called a noob regardless of skin color. )=
  • I have seen more prejudice in that game towards, vampire/demon avatars and waaay more to furries than dark-skinned avatars.
  • by seeker_1us (1203072) on Thursday September 11, 2008 @09:05AM (#24960625)
    OK, so you make a small request, follow by a bigger one, to a stranger. No statistical difference in response depending on whether you are in a light or dark skinned avitar.

    You make a stupidly large request, followed by a reasonable one, to a stranger. There is a statistical difference in response depending on whether you are in a light or dark skinned avitar.

    Researchers conclude that in first case it's because it's how you view yourself and second case it's how you view others and there is racial prejudice. Sounds like psychobabble to me.

    Couldn't it be more like, "wow this stranger made a request that would take 2 hours of my time, then asked for 2 minutes... hmmm do I (consciously or subconsciously) find their avitar attractive enough to risk wasting time with a potential nutjob?"

    TFA doesn't say who the target audience is, but I'm guessing mostly light skined avitar ppl who might just have a statistically higher attraction to ppl of lighter skins. What if they tried this test using ugly light skinned avitars and @#$%ing hot dark skinned avitars? I think they would have to rethink their conclusions.

    • by zentinal (602572)
      You're close to making an interesting point. We really do need to know what the avatars looked like. We don't even know the avatar's projected gender. A screen shot would have sufficed to satisfy this point. We have to assume that the only thing changed in the experiment was the avatar's skin color. Did the researchers in any way modify the avatar's basic appearance (muscularity, voluptuousness, height, width, clothing) to craft a particularly beautiful (or particularly ugly) avatar, and then modify the
  • In WOW... (Score:5, Funny)

    by vjmurphy (190266) on Thursday September 11, 2008 @09:05AM (#24960635) Homepage

    Instead of the Foot-In-The-Door experiment or Door-In-The-Face experiment, you have the Gank-the-N00b experiment and the Give-Gold-And-Items-to-Hot-Female-Night-Elves-Who-Are-Really-Men experiments.

    • While I expect your post had no other purpose than to be funny, what you propose is certainly research-worthy.

      If an individual has racist tendencies I would have thought it a natural extension for them to have racist tendencies in a virtual world. However, it is not so clear that people would treat the opposite gender the same in a virtual world. There's no visual cues, no (or extremely little) chance of getting in bed with the other person. There's no pheromones to screw with you, no visual/physica
  • I thought they were going to discuss how Trolls are depicted in World of Warcraft. :)

    • by genner (694963)

      I thought they were going to discuss how Trolls are depicted in World of Warcraft. :)

      Trolls are fine.
      It's those bloody Elves that cause problems.

  • by pla (258480) on Thursday September 11, 2008 @09:10AM (#24960685) Journal
    While results of the FITD experiment revealed no racial bias, the effect of the DITF technique was significantly reduced when the experimenter took the form of a dark-skinned avatar.

    Okay, black vs white. Easy enough. It makes sense that people's IRL biases would carry over to the online world - You can see that clearly enough with gender, where having an even remotely female-sounding name results in far more attention (sometimes unwanted) and deferential behavior than a neutral or male name.

    But what about anthropomorphic animal avatars (furries)? What about blue-skinned humanoids? What about amorphous purple blobs? This study had the potential to reveal so much more, yet they limited it to merely demonstrating online what we already knew from the real world. Pity.
  • Finally (?) a topic where the GNAA trolls aren't 100% off-topic.

  • by FishAdmin (1288708) on Thursday September 11, 2008 @09:17AM (#24960769)
    That's where my curiosity lies. If they're taking the time to do this, it's all fine and dandy that they can say white avatars get 20% compliance for DITF, whereas black avatars get only 8%; however, I think it's important to note the color of the User's avatar, as well as the gender. Were User's with white avatar's MORE or LESS biased against black avatars? What about User's with black avatar's? How about User's with a female avatar? Were they more likely to give compliance, or less? Were the researcher's Avatars always male, or did they use equal white/black/male/female? I would guess that any female avatar would be more likely to get compliance, as men are still chivalrous, for the most part, and will comply with a woman when they wouldn't with a man. I think that this would have been important to note. In our world, racial/gender bias can be presumed to exist without much difficulty; we all know it's there. However, I think it would very interesting to see whether it was a cross-cultural or cross-gender phenomenon, and not just that it exists. Also, I've known just as many black people that were more suspicious of a black man than of a white man! Normally that has come from those that grew up in, shall we say, less-than-upscale areas, and who have dealt with bad male role models, etc. I think the experiment was interesting, but pointless without more depth. Proving the existence of racial bias, even VIRTUAL racial bias, is a lot like trying to prove that the majority of people enjoy sex. It's more of a "No, really?!"
  • Personally, I'm not willing to draw any conclusions until I see the results of the FITF (foot-in-the-face) or even better, BTTH (boot-to-the-head) experiments.
  • Unfortunately, the random "foot in the face" (FITF) experiments were cut short by a class-action lawsuit.

  • by Maria D (264552) on Thursday September 11, 2008 @09:25AM (#24960901) Homepage

    "virtual world avatars respond to social cues in the same ways that people do in the real world"

    This phrase made me lol. Though I understand it's a metonymy, I choose to nitpick this fine morning, so there.

    Avatars can't respond to anything, being representations. But people respond to representations in much the same ways as to the represented. So, to fix the phrase: "People respond to representations of social cues through avatars in virtual worlds in the same ways people respond to social cues." The claim has this "duh" quality. There is a reason those things are called "representations": they represent something for humans. We react to a video, a story or a picture of a love scene or a murder scene in ways similar to our reactions to the real thing, if weaker. All culture, from casual conversations (word representations) to art in any media is based on that premise. Why would the Second Life be any different?

  • Isn't it obvious? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by eebra82 (907996) on Thursday September 11, 2008 @09:26AM (#24960929) Homepage
    Racism is obviously not limited to the real world. It becomes clear if you read forum threads, play World of WarCraft, chess with avatars on Yahoo and whatnot. Our picture of a black or white dude doesn't change just because we enter a virtual world. After all, that's exactly why movies use shady-looking guys as villains, because we all know what that guy looks like. If we met this person in real life, we would - at least subconsciously - perceive him as a less-than-good person because of what he or she looks like.
  • by sethstorm (512897) * on Thursday September 11, 2008 @09:36AM (#24961043) Homepage

    While results of the FITD experiment revealed no racial bias, the effect of the DITF technique was significantly reduced when the experimenter took the form of a dark-skinned avatar.

    They never saw a good /b/ raid in Habbo.

  • by shplorb (24647) on Thursday September 11, 2008 @09:45AM (#24961197) Homepage Journal

    De Georgio: "Ah that's one thing about our Harry, doesn't play any favorites! Harry hates everybody: Limeys, Micks, Hebes, Fat Dagos, Niggers, Honkies, Chinks, you name it."

    Gonzales: "How does he feel about Mexicans?"

    De Georgio: "Ask him."

    Harry: "Especially Spics."

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by PeeAitchPee (712652)
      Ahhhhh, classic lines from a classic movie. Too bad Hollywood today would crucify Clint for even intimating something along those lines. When I worked for an Israeli company, the Israelis had a great saying: "You're allowed to offend. You're not allowed to be offended." They found a great deal of humor in the concept of 21st century American political correctness.
  • I wonder (Score:4, Insightful)

    by SmallFurryCreature (593017) on Thursday September 11, 2008 @10:08AM (#24961551) Journal

    Was it just the skin color? Was it two avatars in the same suit, just different skin tones or was one a black rastafarian and the other a white office worker?

    That puts it at far more then simple racism. If I avoid the black drug-dealer on the corner but happily sit next to the white nun you could say I am judging on race but that ain't really the case. I would also avoid the WHITE drug-dealer and sit next to the BLACK nun.

    In the series frazier there is a character called Ken Winston or something. What do you first think when you see him. 'Snob', 'brit' or 'black'? I didn't even realize he was black until someone commented that this was the only black character to appear on the show repeatedly. His dark skin tone alone was not enough to trigger the 'black' response in me, because he is whiter then Niles.

    Same in real life, do we judge people of other races purely on their skin color OR on behaviors that we have come to associate with negative experiences with people in the past?

    I do know racism exist, but do you know where I find it strongest, among so called minorities themselves. Was on a job with an older turkish man and we were in and out of the car constantly, I asked if he shouldn't lock it. He said, no need, there are no morocans around. A white person would have been in serious trouble for saying that but a turk had no problem saying it.

    There is plenty of scientific evidence to back it up. Turks are, in holland, less likely to commit crime then other immigrant groups. Turkish men have a rep of being a bit slow/stupid mostly because their language skills tend to be poor but on the whole trustworthy. Men that look 'turkish' get no overly negative response. Turks tend be slightly heavier and hairier. Morocans on the other hand are lighter, often thin and less facial hair. They got a bad rep in holland, not entirely undeserved as a group.

    The odd effect is that I seen a morocan guy with a high education but who physical appearance is associated with trouble youth get badly treated while the turkish guy is treated friendly but as a retard.

    Of course, that was if I stood WELL to the back. Because invariably if people got a choice between a white guy, a turk and a morocan, they talk to the white guy. The killer? I ain't white, just pale but my genetics come from the same corner of the world.

    So I wonder, did this experiment PURELY test skin color or where the avatars behaving differently as well and what does it ultimately show? That we use past experience to judge our reaction to new situations.

    I am convinced that if a person never had any reason to associate race X/group Y with a negative experience before, they wouldn't react to it.

    The proof? Do you react negativly to say an american indian as a european? No, you never dealt with them, never heard negative stories about them, didn't see them hanging on street corners, so you start the encounter with a blank slate.

    Do another experiment, this time use a green-skinned avatar. Then you know wether it is about skin color OR the association we make based on visual signals about what type of person we are dealing with. I am convinced that as soon as you add other signals that this person belongs to a group you can trust, the skin color quickly disappears.

  • Bias? Probably (Score:3, Interesting)

    by archen (447353) on Thursday September 11, 2008 @10:12AM (#24961611)

    I'm not going into the all out racism thing, but as a World of Warcraft junky I have noticed that there is a certain bias. If you look statistically at the game, the two most common races are Night Elves and plain'ol humans. There aren't a lot of customizations in WoW, but one of them is skin color. I finally decided to make a human for whatever reason, and I decided to give her dark skin - not black as in African, but probably the sort of skin tone the average person in India would have.

    Nearly all other characters in the game are white. And when I say nearly, I've seen two low level "banker toons" (also chose female avitars with white hair oddly enough), and I ran into one level 3 character with dark skin. I have yet to see anyone seriously level a character with dark skin, and I see hundreds of other human avitars in passing every day and not one of them has darker skin?

    I generally mind my own business and I can't say race is much of a concern in my sphere of reality, however the fact that virtually no one in WoW chose a dark skin character really makes me wonder about a few things.

  • by bigbigbison (104532) on Thursday September 11, 2008 @10:12AM (#24961623) Homepage
    While the linked to article is pretty good for the general audience, it does leave out a lot of the specifics. Here is a link to a pdf of the actual article [motives.com]

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