Hmeljak, D., & Goldstone, R. L. (2016). Avatars and behavioral experiments: methods for controlled quantitative social behavioral research in virtual worlds. In Y. Silvan (Ed.) Handbook on 3D3C Virtual Worlds. Zurich, Switzerland: Springer International Publishing.
Three-dimensional, Community, Creation, and Commerce (3D3C) worlds can support real-time, quantitatively controlled experiments for studying human group behavior. This chapter provides a review of social behavioral research in virtual worlds, their methodologies and goals, such as studies of socio-economical trends, interpersonal communications between virtual world residents, automated survey studies, etc. The chapter contrasts existing research tools in virtual worlds with the goals of studying human group behavior as a complex system—how interacting groups of people create emergent organizations at a higher level than the individuals comprising such groups. Finally, the chapter presents features of virtual world-based group behavior experiments that allow the recreation of controlled quantitative experiments previously conducted in supervised lab sessions or web-based games.