In addition, as users adapt to the capacities and limitations of virtual environments, cultural learning of in-world social norms may make avatars appear less human and, therefore, less similar to their offline selves (Steen et al., 2006).
Many offline social behaviors and expectations, such as interpersonal distance conventions, altruism, and attractiveness stereotypes transfer into virtual environments (Behm-Morawitz, 2013; Khan & De Angeli, 2009; Merola & Pena, 2009; Principe & Langlois, 2013; Yee, Bailenson, Urbanek, Chang, & Merget, 2007).
Offline beliefs and standards of attractiveness may also be applied to online representations of the self in the form of avatars.
In addition to the potential for continuity between users and their online avatars, the standards and stereotypes embedded in larger sociopolitical contexts can also seep into online contexts (Boellstorff, 2008; Kendall, 1998; Lehdonvirta, Nagashima, Lehdonvirta, & Baba, 2012; Palomares & Lee, 2010; Yee et al., 2007).
Past studies suggest that, much like offline appearance, avatar appearance matters when it comes to creating positive interactions online for youth and adults (Dehn & Van Mulken, 2000; Messinger et al., 2008; Nowak & Rauh, 2005; Principe & Langlois, 2013; Yee, Bailenson, & Ducheneaut, 2009). (2008) found that people who created SL avatars that were more attractive than their offline selves reported being more outgoing, extraverted, risk-taking, and loud online.
Taken together, it seems that, despite the unique online characteristics of avatars, some offline conventions regarding attractiveness and status (e.g., height) may carry over to the online world. Cultural differences and switching of in-group sharing behavior between an American (Facebook) and a Chinese (Renren) social networking site.
According to evolutionary psychological theory, physical features, such as symmetry, have become cultural cues of attractiveness, because they are signs of reproductive and genetic health (Buss, 1989; Jones et al., 2001; Perrett et al., 1998; Singh, 2006; Thornhill & Gangestad, 2006; Waynforth, 2001). Children and adults use attractiveness as a social cue in real people and avatars.
These characteristics can also be altered at any point throughout the avatar’s lifetime and residents report spending a lot of their time and money in-world to accumulate or purchase add-ons, such as skins and accessories (Boellstorff, 2008; Linares et al., 2011).
Innovations in computer graphics have also resulted in highly realistic and human-like renderings of avatars (Giard & Guitton, 2010). Playing MMORPGs: Connections between addiction and identifying with a character.
Khan and De Angeli (2009) similarly found that avatars that were rated as more attractive were also perceived as more intellectually-, socially- and morally- competent. The American image of beauty: Media representations of hair color for four decades.
They were also preferred as social partners (Principe & Langlois, 2013). (2009) found that when users were assigned to taller avatars, they behaved more aggressively in a negotiation task.
Additionally, body weight often correlates with ratings of attractiveness and health (Furnham, Swami, & Shah, 2006). Journal of experimental child psychology, 115, 590-597.