A Meta-Analysis of the Proteus Effect

Avatar characteristics induce users’ behavioral conformity with small-to-medium effect sizes

Rabindra Ratan, David Beyea, Benjamin J. Li, Luis Graciano


Over a decade of research on the Proteus effect in numerous contexts suggests that people conform in behavior and attitudes to their avatars’ characteristics. In order to provide clarity about the reliability and size of the Proteus effect, a meta-analysis was conducted with 46 quantitative experimental studies in which avatars with specific characteristics were randomly assigned to participants. Results indicate a relatively consistent effect size (between .22 and .26, depending on subset of studies examined) and nearly all variance explained. Unexplained variance differed between studies that used behavioral or attitudinal measures, while studies which examined potential moderators explained all variance. Overall, this research suggests that the Proteus effect is a reliable phenomenon, with a small-but-approaching-medium effect size according to a traditional rule of thumb, but is relatively large compared to other digital media effects examined in previous meta analyses.