The self-discrepancy between one's actual self and one's ideal self, which is associated with negative emotional states (e.g., depression) or unhealthy lifestyles (e.g., eating disorders), is mostly caused and intensified by exposure to unrealistic images of others (e.g., celebrities or magazine models). Drawing from regulatory focus theory, the current study examines whether creating self-resembling avatars, especially those that resemble our ideal selves, could counteract this negative effect of self-discrepancy. The results of a between-subject experiment (N = 95) indicated that user-created self-reflecting avatars made salient different mental images of their bodies based on whether they customized their avatars to look like their actual or ideal selves, and consequently influenced their perceptions toward their physical body through two different self-regulatory systems (i.e., promotion-focused and prevention-focused), with consequences for health outcomes. Theoretical and practical implications are discussed.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
- Human-Computer Interaction