What typical gamers look like in 2014 Reuters/Vincent West

It is in people's nature to conform, and they will conform to a computer, even if the computer is wrong.

A study, published in Springer's journal Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, examines how people make judgement calls after playing role-playing video games. The research was led by Ulrich Weger of the University of Witten/Herdecke in Germany.

Participants in the study first played an immersive game as an avatar for seven minutes. After that they completed a selection task in which they had the option of overriding incorrect choices made by a computer. The researchers discovered that role-playing as an avatar in an immersive video game makes people identify with computers better than watching other people play would. People identify with the computer to such an extent that they start to conform to its decisions and its judgements, even if they are wrong.

People conform with the computer to this degree because, according to the researchers, they are striving for accuracy. In the process of conforming, people lose faith in their own competence. They start conforming to others who are known to make better judgements in the matter, even if in this case they are making the wrong judgement.

The researchers are trying to find out what happens when people enter an immersive virtual world, especially since video gaming is widespread and increasingly gaining popularity among young males. The researchers say that there is a need for gamers, educators and parents to consider the consequences of gaming and take countermeasures. For instance, they say that it would be appropriate to reflect on what it really means to be human, especially when this humanness is shifted to an avatar in an immersive video game. The long-term consequences of virtual reality gaming will be hard to determine, according to the researchers, for instance, whether they encourage an alientation from real-life encounters.

To contact the writer, email: