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Antecedents of the Closeness of Human-Avatar Relationships in a Virtual World

Antecedents of the Closeness of Human-Avatar Relationships in a Virtual World
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Author(s): Yi Zhao (City University of Hong Kong, China), Weiquan Wang (City University of Hong Kong, China) and Yan Zhu (Tsinghua University, China)
Copyright: 2010
Volume: 21
Issue: 2
Pages: 28
Source title: Journal of Database Management (JDM)
Editor(s)-in-Chief: Keng Siau (Missouri University of Science and Technology, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/jdm.2010040103


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Virtual worlds (e.g., Second Life), where users interact and form relationships with other users’ virtual identities represented by avatars (i.e., human-avatar relationships), are increasingly influential in today’s businesses and society. Nevertheless, the sustainability and impact of virtual worlds depend largely on the closeness of human-avatar relationships. This study investigates the antecedents of the closeness of such relationships. The authors conceptualize human-avatar relationship closeness as composed of interaction frequency, activity diversity, and relational influence. They identify its antecedents (perceived needs fulfillment, relationship irreplaceableness, and resource investment) by extending Rusbult’s investment model of interpersonal relationship commitment to the domain of human-computer interaction. The authors test the hypotheses through an online survey of Second Life users and find that (1) resource investment is positively associated with all three human-avatar relationship closeness dimensions; (2) needs fulfillment is positively associated with interaction frequency and relational influence; and (3) relationship irreplaceableness is positively associated with relational influence.

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