Sorry I haven’t updated in a while, been busy with school and rl like everybody. But this article in the NY Times this week caught my attention. The punchline:
Rutgers University …scientists have repeatedly had female volunteers put their heads into giant machines and focus their attention on erotic fantasies — the scans reveal that the pleasure centers of their brains light up in ways indistinguishable from everyday orgasms
Women who simply thought about the stimulation of their breasts and genitals, the scans revealed, lit up the brain’s corresponding sensory areas.
I guess it is just nice to know there is a scientific basis to the feelings that many of us share on imvu. That we’re not crazy for thinking that sex here can feel as good as and even be better than sex in rl. These studies don’t even include the most powerful part of imvu, which is achieving all of this with the participation of a partner, the best of whom can stimulate with surprise and intensity, and penetrate deep into your heart and mind with emotional contact and intimacy.
Also in the article:
Men are mentioned occasionally. But sex researchers have found that the novel type of autoerotism shows up mainly in women.
I have mentioned in the past that women have more mirror neurons than men, the neurons that allow us women to feel more intense empathy also allow us to feel things we see on imvu as real.
Which maybe excuses and explains a bit why it is so hard to find good male partners on imvu. Poor men, they don’t know what they are missing.
Somebody shared this scientific article from some researchers at Stanford. Randomly enough, one of the reasons I started with imvu was to do research much like this. So its really neat for me to see what else is out there.
The authors surveyed the imvu community in 2011 and though I have a few methodological quibbles (on the questions they used and the people they sampled), the results are mostly believable and are super neat. The most compelling is that people on imvu were more likely to feel “Happy, Relaxed, Free, Calm, Connected, Excited, Wealthy, Safe, Comfortable, Confident, Creative, Important, and Ambitious.” than in RL where they are more likely to feel “Sad, Stressed, Cautious, Angry, Lonely, Bored, Poor, Scared, Awkward, Insecure, Uninspired, Worthless and Lazy.” Importantly, imvu users are not social misfits escaping reality; the authors of the study found that imvu users reported similar emotions in RL to non-imvu users. In fact imvu users are the lucky ones.
“We also pleasantly surprised to find that there was generally higher reporting of positive feelings both outside and inside of the IMVU environment, suggesting a population that generally considers itself happy, confident and creative… a strong challenge to the negative, antisocial stereotype of users of these communities”
People feel more confident and in control when they are on imvu. This sounds right to me, almost. Power relations and influence games are much more laid bare in imvu. But I mean that in a good way. Yes it leads to drama, but it also has been a nice outlet for the many of us who LIKE to be influenced… to follow.
The authors were initially primarily interested in whether people use imvu to escape or to connect, and hypothesizes they would be able to categorize people into one camp or the other. Unsurprising to me, they find that people come to do both. Imvu is about escape but its also about connections and relationships. This site is all about helping people take advantage of both.
In psychology, the science of attribution theory and self-serving bias discusses how we fill in the blanks when we don’t know something. Typically, it is based on the idea that while we see everything about our own lives, we only catch little glimpses of the lives of those around us. Therefore our imagination fills in the blanks, often incorrectly.That is especially true in imvu.
On imvu, you can really see a lot (what Kait calls imvu vision), really see the heart and soul of someone, in some ways, even better than in real life where your view of someone’s heart is often distorted by pesky laws of reality and physics and biology. But at the same time, on imvu you also see so little. Just words on a screen. Here, people can be in multiple places at once. Be distracted by the real world, or other webpages on the computer.
Something that often happens in a chat, the door rings, the water on the stove boils over, something funny happens on TV, you disappear to deal with it, all I see is quiet, like I’m being ignored. Unlike rl where we usually have some context even on the phone (hearing a doorbell, hearing you laugh), on imvu we can’t see all the circumstnaces that made you disappear, and we jump to the worse conclusions… “he doesn’t care.” Giving context is important, if only a simple “brb”
It also applies more broadly. Unlike the real world, where everyone at least sort knows each other’s friends, like on facebook where you see everyone’s friends, on imvu its different. I’ve discovered that even people you are closest to, and have known for months, probably have good friends you aren’t even aware of.
And when you don’t know, its easy to assume the worse. Everyone else is having more fun… *without you*. When really, their life is probably a lot like yours.
For me, the answer is like for most things: communication is key. We tend to think the worst when we don’t know. Its easy to forget on imvu that people don’t see so much about you and are forced to guess. Imvu is all about communication. Use it.
Its now proven, cute blondes get away with more… There have been a number of studies recently that have shown a correlation between blonde cuteness and smoldering sexiness. In fact the truth of the matter may be that cuteness is more than just a physical appearance. Scientists have theorized that this is a survival instinct and a result of over breeding. Some scientists also point toward bunnies as evidence of this. After all what animal is cuter that a cuddly little bunny rabbit or hornier?!
One of the most interesting studies said that blonde mice don’t just have more fun but the have 85% more sex than brunette mice do. Unfortunately none of the mice were available for comment. It seems that the blonde ones also get trapped more easily though too. This may be due to their insatiable desire for cheese or perhaps they were just to dam cute or had just had sex and didn’t care. Scientists still debate this in lunch rooms and high schools across the country and more testing may be needed.
I’ve also been pondering the question of what makes imvu different than a chat program like Yahoo Chat or gchat. Before joining, I couldn’t tell you. It’s certainly not as ambitious as second life–I think that’s to its credit, since it is so much more accessible and prettier…
I think part of what makes imvu so magical is that the brain is wired for imagination… for simulation. MRI scans show that the same neurons that fire when we touch a hot stove, also fire when we see somebody else touch a hot stove (so-called mirror neurons). These neurons evolved in part because they provoide empathy but also to help us simulate the future so that we don’t have to touch the hot stove to know it will hurt. Other experiments show that people who are assigned an attractive avatar in second life act more confident, but more importantly, that confidence carries over even after they’ve logged out of the game. Even old psychological studies found that if you recorded phone conversations of person A talking to person B, and person A thought person B was prettier (due to a faked photograph), person B “sounded” more attractive, according to observers who weren’t aware of the photograph. Simple put, Avatars matter.
On a personal note, I find that avatars have a really big effect on me. A good guy friend of mine likes to use a girl avatar sometimes. I found I interact with him very differently when I see him as a girl. More simply, I love cuddle poses. I mean I REALLY love cuddle poses. I can literally feel my heart rate change when I’m in the arms of somebody I love. But maybe I’m just weird… but even if it is just me, there’s still the science.
Thank you Quidlyn (Katy) for such powerful insight.