Preadolescent girls' and boys' virtual MUD play
School of Education Counseling and Psychology in Education
Computers; Gender; Play; Identity; Social interaction
Cognitive Psychology | Developmental Psychology | Educational Psychology
Same and opposite-sex pairs of preadolescents interacted twice in a MUD, a virtual domain where they created characters known as avatars and socially interacted with one another. Boys interacted primarily through rapid scene shifts and playful exchanges; girls interacted with one another through written dialogue. Opposite-sex pairs lagged behind same-sex pairs in playful exchanges in part because the forms they used to interact with one another were somewhat incompatible with playful exchanges. Gender bending, defined as children creating an avatar of a different sex than one's own, occurred about 13% of the time. Even so, children still acted much the same way as they did when presenting themselves as an avatar of their own sex. The results suggest that MUDs are a useful virtual space for researchers to examine classic developmental questions about sex differences in play styles, social interaction patterns, identity expression, and modes of thought. At an applied level, MUDs can provide a virtual play space for preadolescent children to discover who they are, as well as a 21st century place to interact with their friends.
Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology
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Calvert, S. L., Strouse, G. A., Strong, B. L., Huffaker, D. A., & Lai, S. (2009). Preadolescent girls’ and boys’ virtual MUD play. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, 30, 250-264. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.appdev.2008.12.005