The Social and Technical Anatomy of Digital Bodies
Edited By Jaime Banks
Chapter Five: Face & Hair: Looks That Change Behaviors (Sun Joo (Grace) Ahn)
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Face & Hair
Looks That Change Behaviors
SUN JOO (GRACE) AHN
The face is often referred to as the “window to the soul” because it is an essential way of expressing emotions to others. More than 10,000 expressions can be made using facial muscles (Ekman, 1972) and among the human body parts used to express and communicate emotions, the face is one of the richest sources of nonverbal information (Collier, 1985). The ability to recognize these expressed emotions and identify a person from their facial appearance is an essential skill for daily social interactions (Weigelt, Koldewyn, & Kanwisher, 2012), because people often attempt to estimate others’ traits and characteristics—from trustworthiness to competency—through their facial features.
Then what about the facial features and expressions of digital figures, like those in videogames and digital worlds? With virtual reality and gaming technologies reaching the mainstream (Pew Internet Research, 2015), we are increasingly exposed to and interacting with digital agents (bodies driven by computer algorithms) and avatars (bodies driven by human users). Although these digital figures may not exist in the flesh and bone, research suggests that interacting with digital agents and avatars can not only influence the way that we think about them in the digital world but also change the way that we think and behave in the physical world. One reason that agents and avatars can be so influential may be...
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