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      Customizing Your Demons: Anxiety Reduction via Anthropomorphizing and Destroying an “Anxiety Avatar”


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          Character customization is a prominent feature in digital games, affording users the ability to tailor one’s virtual self-representation (avatar) to match aspects of their actual or ideal self, influencing psychological well-being. The mental health implications of character customization can be partially explained by self-discrepancy theory, which argues that achieving congruence with one’s avatar reduces cognitive dissonance. However, the role of undesirable self-concepts such as mental health ailments have largely been overlooked in this context despite forming part of one’s identity. In theory, customization of an avatar representing undesirable self-concepts presents a self-regulatory paradox: individuals desire to reduce discrepancies with a self-representation, yet they also desire to enlarge discrepancies with a disliked-self. To reconcile this, two experiments explored the psychological implications of imbuing avatars with undesirable self-concepts. In Study 1 ( N = 90), participants customized an avatar to represent anxiety within themselves (i.e., an anxiety avatar). Customization significantly reduced state anxiety compared to a control group, supporting the proposed discrepancy-reduction mechanism. Study 2 ( N = 122) employed a 2 (customization: yes, no) × 2 (destruction: yes, no) between-subjects design, with participants either destroying or observing an anxiety avatar. Destruction of customized anxiety avatars resulted in the largest reduction in anxiety among all conditions, supporting the proposed discrepancy-enlargement mechanism. Theoretical and practical implications for the use of avatar-based e-mental health interventions are discussed.

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          The "What" and "Why" of Goal Pursuits: Human Needs and the Self-Determination of Behavior

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              An Index and Test of Linear Moderated Mediation.

              I describe a test of linear moderated mediation in path analysis based on an interval estimate of the parameter of a function linking the indirect effect to values of a moderator-a parameter that I call the index of moderated mediation. This test can be used for models that integrate moderation and mediation in which the relationship between the indirect effect and the moderator is estimated as linear, including many of the models described by Edwards and Lambert ( 2007 ) and Preacher, Rucker, and Hayes ( 2007 ) as well as extensions of these models to processes involving multiple mediators operating in parallel or in serial. Generalization of the method to latent variable models is straightforward. Three empirical examples describe the computation of the index and the test, and its implementation is illustrated using Mplus and the PROCESS macro for SPSS and SAS.

                Author and article information

                Front Psychol
                Front Psychol
                Front. Psychol.
                Frontiers in Psychology
                Frontiers Media S.A.
                03 December 2020
                : 11
                : 566682
                [1] 1Oregon Reality Lab, School of Journalism and Communication, University of Oregon , Portland, OR, United States
                [2] 2Media Effects and Technology Lab, College of Journalism and Communications, University of Florida , Gainesville, FL, United States
                Author notes

                Edited by: Rachel Kowert, Take This, Seattle, United States

                Reviewed by: Max Birk, Eindhoven University of Technology, Netherlands; Jean-Luc Lugrin, Julius Maximilian University of Würzburg, Germany

                *Correspondence: Daniel Pimentel, pimend@ 123456uoregon.edu

                This article was submitted to Human-Media Interaction, a section of the journal Frontiers in Psychology

                Copyright © 2020 Pimentel and Kalyanaraman.

                This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

                : 29 May 2020
                : 29 October 2020
                Page count
                Figures: 6, Tables: 3, Equations: 0, References: 116, Pages: 17, Words: 0
                Original Research

                Clinical Psychology & Psychiatry
                customization,avatar,anxiety,self-discrepancy theory,anthropomorphism,mental health


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