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Child-like avatars cause players to perceive the world in new ways

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When adults are placed in the virtual body of a child, they identify more closely with child-like attributes, according to a recent study published in PNAS and reported on by BBC.

Participants were placed in a motion capture suit and outfitted with a head mounted display. The study found that in addition to taking on child-like spatial reasoning, adults were more likely to pick up infantile attributes. Professor Mel Slater of the University of Barcelona, who led the research team, told BBC that the findings are based on the "illusion of body ownership."

"Somehow the brain thinks 'this is my body' which makes the whole experience consistent," Slater said. "You see the world bigger, have more childlike attributes and prefer a child's environment rather than an adult one."

According to Thomas Metzinger, a professor from the Johannes Gutenberg University in Germany, this research could help rehabilitate prisoners and more. By allowing users to step into another's form, it could help prisoners take the perspective of victims, Metzinger said.

Check out the study at PNAS, or read BBC's full story.