Study shows that virtual worlds can influence real-world decisions

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cyclist-study.jpgA group of scientists at Cambridge University has conducted a study that shows that associations in videogames transfer directly to the real world. A group of volunteers played a (rather basic, from the look of it) cycling game, where they would be given a slurp of fruit juice if a cyclist from their team passed them, but a slurp of salty tea if a rival cyclist passed them.

A few days later, the participants were invited back and given the choice of two chairs in the waiting room, one with the logo of their team, and one with the logo of the rival team. Three quarters of participants picked the chair with their team’s logo, despite most people claiming not to notice the design.

The scientists’ conclusion? “Whatever you’ve learned in the computer game does have an effect on how you behave toward the stimulus in the real world” says the leader of the study, Paul Fletcher. For those of you who play computer games on a regular basis, you’ll know that virtual worlds can be just as ‘real’ as the real world, but I suppose it’s nice to have that confirme by science.

Oh, and no – this doesn’t mean that GTA players will automatically slaughter any prostitutes that they see. But that’s inevitably the angle that the tabloid press is like to take on this story if it gets picked up. Sigh.

New Scientist (via @liquidindian)

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Duncan Geere