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Potential of on-line games for socio-psychological experiments

A trainee researcher of the International Laboratory of Socio-Cultural Research Aram Fomichev made the presentation called ''Potential of on-line games for socio-psychological experiments'' on 15th June.

Aram described possible psychological research perspectives in a virtual reality which is becoming more and more popular among people in different countries including Russia. Modern cyberspace gives necessary conditions for close interaction between players. Moreover, there are enormous amounts of gaming servers in the Internet which have different ethnic audiences from different countries. Psychologists can learn a range of socio-psychological phenomena in cyberspace and conduct experiments which can be conducted in the laboratories too to test the hypotheses. Furthermore, the area of virtual reality hasn’t been actively studied by scientists because it is relatively young and it grows rapidly, so that the scientific articles about socio-psychological and sociological aspects of interaction in cyberspace written several years ago are not so relevant in the present time.

Aram identified several priorities and most suitable areas of research such as the dynamics of large and small groups clearly visible among the gamers inside and outside the game. A researcher can construct an experiment (with the help of server administration and programmers) to study the socio-psychological phenomena, for example, effect of the witness, stereotyping, and simulate psychological processes directly in the game. Researcher can also interview the gamer participated in the experiment on VOIP-telephony without any problems. Psychologist can identify features, values, common rules and norms of gaming audience from different regions and even nations through questionnaires. For instance, there is a survey conducted by the independent researcher Nicolas Iyo, and the sample of this survey was about 30.000 gamers around the world. However, psychologist may encounter some difficulties in research planning that must be considered, one of the troubles is time because the researcher needs it to learn the mechanics of the game, special vocabulary and rules to design an experiment successfully. Psychologist may also need a help of programmers because programming skills may be necessary.

In general, the study of psychological aspects of virtual reality may be an actual direction because the influence of Internet technologies to real-life person is significant and the audience of the Internet and of the on-line games servers is expanding every day.

Marina Lazutkina,
trainee researcher