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In Virtue/Vice, Dr. Christine B. Whelan blogs about news, books, scientific and psychological research and her general musings about virtue and vice in our everyday lives.

 

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January 14th, 2011

Simulated Ethics

 
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simulatedethics-flashGuys, just an FYI: Next time a simulated image of a woman asks you to make a moral or ethical choice about sexual infidelity, know that your decisions might be impacted by whether she’s real-looking or not.

Huh?

Yep, welcome to cutting-edge social science. According to a study by researchers at the Indiana University School of Informatics at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, men — but not women–are more likely to think that infidelity is wrong when the computerized chick outlining the scenario looks like a real (presumably hot) woman.

Explains study co-author Karl F. MacDorman, Ph.D., an associate professor in the Human-Computer Interaction Program at the School of Informatics

a simulated female character presented participants with an ethical dilemma related to sexual conduct and marital infidelity. The character’s human photorealism and motion quality were varied in four ways. The changes had no significant effect on female viewers, while male viewers were much more likely to rule against the character when her visual appearance was obviously computer generated and her movements were jerky.

“Although it is difficult to generalize, I think the general trend is that both men and women are more sympathetic to real human characters than to simulated human characters. So I think the women were mainly influenced by the moral dilemma itself, and they may have felt more empathetic concern for the character, because they could better imagine what it would be like to be in the same situation,” said MacDorman.

The fact that males and females react differently to changes in a character’s visual presentation could impact the design of future systems created to facilitate medical decision-making, crime reenactments and many other scenarios.

Go figure.

 
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The Author : Christine B. Whelan
Dr. Christine B. Whelan is an author, professor and speaker. She and her husband, Peter, and their dictator cats, Chairman Meow and Evita Purron, live in Pittsburgh. Her book "Why Smart Men Marry Smart Women" is available in stores or at the Halo Store.
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