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The effect of learning type and avatar similarity on learning outcomes in educational video games

, Michigan State University, United States

Michigan State University . Awarded


Two theories guide two very different ideas about learning. Social cognitive theory (Bandura, 1977, 1989) places the greater emphasis on observational learning, or learning by watching a model produce a behavior before doing it oneself. Other researchers purport that experiential learning, or learning by doing, results in stronger learning (Kolb, 1984). Neither of these theoretical areas have been adequately explored with regard to video games, and they have never been compared before. As well, the entertainment-education paradigm (EEP), a third theoretical approach (Singhal & Rogers, 2002), uses many of the same constructs as SCT, and supports the idea that gaining attention and motivating learning by using intrinsically-motivating games will then increase learning. This research first explores which of these paradigms—SCT and the EEP, or experiential learning—is more effective in producing outcomes such as knowledge retained, involvement, intention to perform behaviors in the future, enjoyment, and self-efficacy.

Additionally, SCT posits that identification with the model one is observing increases positive learning results, and video games allow for the creation of an avatar with which one can adjust identification. People often create avatars to represent their ideal selves or their actual selves, but it is not yet known which of these produces the more effective learning results. Because the player becomes the model when he or she creates an avatar based on self, there possibly exists a third condition—the self-as-model, or automodel—that is distinctly different from a third party observational learning perspective or an enactive perspective. Given the history of research on video games and avatar use showing that people tend to idealize themselves in avatar form, expectations are that the ideal self avatar would yield the greatest learning outcomes, followed by real self (both conditions that offer extreme identification with the model), and lastly the third-party avatar. This is the second major exploration this research undertakes.

Results indicate that enactive learning results in higher self-efficacy. Behavioral intentions and knowledge retained did not reach significance, but means were higher in the enactive condition. Ideal, real, or other observational conditions also did not reach significance in an analysis of variance, but again, means were highest for the ideal self avatar, and correlations showed relationships in the hypothesized direction for enjoyment of the game, enjoyment of learning, and enjoyment of the avatar.


Lewis, M.L. The effect of learning type and avatar similarity on learning outcomes in educational video games. Ph.D. thesis, Michigan State University. Retrieved October 21, 2019 from .

This record was imported from ProQuest on October 23, 2013. [Original Record]

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