The Loh Down On Science

Cyber Skin

Ready for the naked truth about the Internet?

This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science.

We humans cover up. Why? Modesty, protection from weather, even culture. But cyber-behavior researchers at Laval University wondered: If those weren't factors, how much or how little clothing would we wear?

Turns out the online virtual world Second Life provides a handy laboratory. Users freely design their own avatars, or online personas, including both body types and clothing.

The team randomly analyzed 400 Second Life avatars, half male, half female. They factored in possible gender switching, and skipped avatars with exaggerated body proportions. Then they calculated each avatar’s percentage of exposed skin.

Result? Online, females show twice as much skin as males do!

Why? The researchers say attractiveness is not likely to be the reason, because both genders didn't do it. Their theory? Typically, women physically touch more than males. So exposing virtual skin may compensate for lack of touch online.

In short, female avatars: Asserting their right to bare arms!

The Loh Down on Science is produced by LDOS Media Lab, with 89.3 KPCC Pasadena, California. And made possible by the generous support of the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation.

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