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Michigan State University

Avatar Psychology for Designers

Michigan State University via Coursera


This course covers the latest and greatest psychological research on avatars and is relevant to current and future designers of any medium that includes user self-representations (e.g., video games, virtual worlds, robots, automobiles, social media, etc.). By taking this course, you will be able to define digital and non-digital avatars and identify how they are applicable in everyday life. You will be able to differentiate between the types of relationships people have with their avatars and motivations for using avatars that are more or less similar to the self. The course will help you discern the importance different avatar attributes (e.g., gender, race/ethnicity, attractiveness, personality, humanity, body type, hair, controllability) and avoid common harmful stereotypes in your designs. Finally, you will gain the ability to design avatars that harness their psychological power to influence users toward specific (hopefully non-evil) outcomes, even beyond avatar use. Dr. Ratan, the instructor of this one-of-a-kind course, is an internationally recognized scholar who actively publishes research on avatar psychology. He is also known for his jovial and engaging lecture style and believes that you learn and produce more when you are having fun. Hope you enjoy the course.


  • Avastart Here!
    • Introduction to the course, avatars, and attributes of avatars
  • Connections to Avatars
    • How do players connect with their avatars? How do players explore their identity through their avatar?
  • Gender, Race, and Other Traits
    • An avatar's physical features, including their race or gender, can feed into stereotypes or unfortunate implications. How can we design avatars to avoid common pitfalls?
  • Got any Change? Effects of Avatars
    • How do avatars influence their users even after the context of avatar use? How can you, as a designer, harness this power (for good, not evil)?

Taught by

Rabindra Ratan


3.8 rating at Coursera based on 26 ratings

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