Are You What Your Avatar Eats? Health-Behavior Effects of Avatar-Manifested Self-Concept

Young June Sah*, Rabindra Ratan, Hsin-Yi Tsai, Wei Peng, Issidoros Sarinopoulos

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


Drawing on the self-concept activation and goal-priming account of the priming effect, this study examined how self-concept—i.e., ideal self, ought self, and actual self—can be harnessed as a model for avatar customization in digital games to promote healthy-eating behavior. Female participants (N = 133) customized an avatar in a digital game to reflect either the ideal, ought, or actual self. Participants then selected food items for their avatar within the digital game as well as food items for themselves to eat afterward. Results suggest that for participants using an ought-self avatar, the extent to which they were conscious of their health was positively related to healthier food choice both within and after playing the game. No such effect emerged for participants who used an ideal- or actual-self avatar, indicating that participants formed the goal of being healthy only with regard to the ought self. This study demonstrates that avatar customization in a digital game can serve a regulatory function by representing individuals’ duties and responsibilities, thus, causing them to adopt such attributes manifested in their avatar during and after the game.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)632-657
Number of pages26
JournalMedia Psychology
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2 Oct 2017


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