A few years ago, a research psychologist at Stanford University named Jeremy Bailenson effectively proved the soundness of Anderson’s recruitment methods (pdf). A week before the 2004 presidential election, Bailenson asked a bunch of prospective voters to look at photographs of George W. Bush and John Kerry and then give their opinions of the candidates. What the voters didn’t know was that the photographs had been doctored: each voter’s own visage had been subtly morphed together with that of one of the candidates.
In this and two follow-up experiments, Bailenson found what Rudy Rucker, the novelist who wrote Software, would have predicted: voters were significantly more likely to support the candidate who had been made to look like them. What’s more, not a single voter detected that it was, in part, his or her own face staring back.
In another experiment (pdf), Bailenson outfitted college students with head-mounted virtual-reality displays and then sat them across a digital table from an artificial-intelligence agent—a computer program with a human face. The students then listened as the “agent” delivered a short persuasive speech. When the agent was programmed to mimic a student’s facial movements on a four-second delay—a tilt of the chin, a look to the left, a downward glance—the students found it more likeable and compelling. And like the prospective voters, the students showed no sign that they knew they were being mimicked. Nothing, it seems, is more persuasive than a mirror.
Read entire article here.
Summary from Google Talks:
The coming explosion of immersive digital technology, combined with recent progress in unlocking how the mind works, will soon revolutionize our lives in ways only science fiction has imagined. In Infinite Reality, Jeremy Bailenson (Stanford University) and Jim Blascovich (University of California, Santa Barbara)—two of virtual reality’s pioneering authorities whose pathbreaking research has mapped how our brain behaves in digital worlds—take us on a mind-bending journey through the virtual universe.
Infinite Reality explores what emerging computer technologies and their radical applications will mean for the future of human life and society. Along the way, Bailenson and Blascovich examine the timeless philosophical questions of the self and “reality” that arise through the digital experience; explain how virtual reality’s latest and future forms—including immersive video games and social-networking sites—will soon be seamlessly integrated into our lives; show the many surprising practical applications of virtual reality, from education and medicine to sex and warfare; and probe further-off possibilities like “total personality downloads” that would allow your great-great-grandchildren to have a conversation with “you” a century or more after your death.
Related Situationist posts:
- Virtual Bias
- Virtual Infection, Disease Dynamics, and Human Behavior
- The Situation of First-Person Shooters
- The Facial Situation of Presidential Candidates
- The Situation of Trust
- Voting for a Face
- Botoxifying Empathy
Image from Pacific Standard.