Journal of Management Information Systems

Volume 40 Number 4 2023 pp. 1171-1201

Avatar-Mediated Communication and Social Identification

Teng, Ching-I, Dennis, Alan R, and Dennis, Alexander S


Avatar-mediated communication (AMC), commonly used in online environments such as games and the emerging metaverse, is different from traditional computer-mediated communication in that it is a human-object-object-human relationship mediated by the individual’s avatar and the avatar of the person with whom they are communicating. We conceptualize AMC by using three key concepts: user-avatar identification (i.e., how a user perceives their avatar as themselves), avatar-avatar identification (i.e., how a user perceives their avatar as part of a community of avatars), and social presence (i.e., how a user perceives the other avatar as a representation of the other person). We tested this model using 778 individuals who responded to three waves of data collection. The results show that the three factors of AMC influence users’ social identification with their community and strengthen its impact on loyalty. From a theoretical perspective, our research adds two novel constructs—user–avatar identification and avatar–avatar identification—that play key roles in AMC in addition to the well-known effects of social presence. From a practical perspective, our research helps developers better design online games and virtual worlds such as the metaverse.

Key words and phrases: Social identification, metaverse, online games, online loyalty, social presence, avatar identification, CMC, computer-mediated communication, online influence, avatars, virtual worlds