Gender Self-Stereotypes of Women in Online Games: The Effects of Avatar Appearance and Their Roles


Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis

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Award date23 Aug 2022


Using Self-Categorization Theory, this study investigates how gendered avatars shape females’ gender self-stereotypes in the context of online gaming. It examines how females’ gender self-stereotypes can be different when the performed avatar is feminine-looking rather than masculine-looking; when the avatar takes on a feminine gender role rather than a masculine one role; and one where avatars hold a gender congruent appearance and role, rather than one that is gender incongruent. This study employs an online survey and a lab experiment to test the hypothesized variations in gender self-stereotypes.

The results of the study indicate that gendered avatar playing contributes to female gender self-stereotyping. Frist, the findings of the experiment are limited though as the study only reveals a trend that playing avatars who preform feminine gender role (i.e., supportive role) shows higher levels of gender self-stereotyping as compared with playing avatars who preform masculine gender role (i.e., leadership role). Second, the survey reveals that performing feminine gender roles via avatars positively predicts higher level of gender self-stereotypes. However, the hypothesized positive association between playing with feminine-looking avatars with self-stereotyping as compared with playing with masculine-looking avatars is not detected. The survey also reveals an unexpected result in regard to the effect of appearance and role congruency. Specifically, the positive effect of performing feminine gender roles on gender self-stereotyping as compared with performing masculine gender roles occurs only when avatars appear masculine-like.

Together, this research makes an important contribution to the scholarly literature on gender self-stereotyping. It also extends the existing research on avatars’ post-use effect with the detection of unique contribution of avatars’ gender roles in gender self-stereotyping. In addition, this dissertation highlights the complexity of gender in online games.