Proteus effect

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This article is about an aspect of human psychology. For the statistical bias in academic publishing, see Proteus phenomenon.

The Proteus effect describes a phenomenon wherein the behaviour of an individual operating under a digital persona, adapts to conform to that persona. This is an effect associated with digital self-representation.


The Proteus effect holds that the digital identity which one presents changes based on the avatar under which one operates. The concept takes its name from the Greek god Proteus, from whose name is derived the adjective protean — meaning that which is susceptible of frequent change, and versatility of presentation.[1] This term has been used to describe the actions one commits while online; specifically a scenario in which the avatar ceases to be persona, and becomes an invested yet artificial personality.[1] Under the guise of an avatar, an individual's behaviour may differ greatly from that which they display in real life.

With respect to the use of social media, the vehicle and facilitator for such shifts in behaviour (and identity) is thought to be the social avatar.

The Proteus Effect has been used to help people change addictive behaviours,[2] and to lose weight.[3]


  1. ^ a b Yee, Nick; Jeremy Bailenson (2007). "The Proteus Effect: The Effect of Transformed Self-Representation on Behavior". Human Communication Research 33: 271–90. doi:10.1111/j.1468-2958.2007.00299.x. 
  2. ^ "Treatment center gets $865,000 for OpenSim project". 
  3. ^ "How Club One lowers your weight and BP virtually". 

Further reading[edit]