Avatars and Digital Technology Literacy Applied in Psychology

Avatars and Digital Technology Literacy Applied in Psychology

Judy Joohye Lee (Biola University, USA) and Laura Dryjanska (Biola University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-9261-7.ch023

Abstract

Technological advances have led to a variety of positive outcomes and benefits. This chapter aims to discuss the different kinds of therapeutic interventions, clinical methods, and approaches in the field of psychology that have resulted from the advance in digital and virtual technology. In particular, this chapter focuses on avatars and virtual technology as a component of media literacy. Additionally, the chapter explores, in detail, how avatars are used across various clinical settings with diverse populations such as individuals with autism spectrum disorder, individuals with schizophrenia, prison settings, and the criminal justice system. Furthermore, the chapter highlights the significant implications avatars have in regards to education. Lastly, controversies and challenges are discussed regarding the efficacy of digital technology within clinical settings (e.g., telepsychology).
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Introduction

There is no doubt that technology has advanced over the years. The flip phones we once thought were trendy and new are now considered things of the past- outdated and passé. Currently, almost everything is touch screen, password encrypted, or voice activated. Computers seem to be getting smaller or bigger, faster, smarter, and better. Also, one can watch a sports game through a screen, clearer and in better definition than what it would have been in real life. Nowadays, the traditional way of learning through pen and paper may not be the most effective for some current students, and thus, an integration of technology may be an inevitable, essential component of today’s classrooms (Tozlu & Yildiz, 2018). Simply put, technology all around us is continuing to advance in ways that one could have never imagined in the past. Most importantly, technology has greatly influenced the way professionals interact within their area of expertise. For instance, psychology is no longer a field of practice where therapists are solely expected to sit across their patients, face-to-face; it goes beyond. As this chapter will go into detail, the advancement in technology has greatly contributed to the way psychologists provide therapeutic services to their patients. It also has some important implications for education.

Thus, this chapter will primarily discuss the current research and applications in the field of media literacy (specifically, avatar technology) across the discipline of psychology. Then, it will investigate and discuss the challenges and solutions regarding the current research and present its applications. Lastly, the chapter will consider the possible implications media literacy (i.e., avatar technology) has on students and the educational environment.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD): Requires exposure to a traumatic or stressful event, and is characterized by persistent intrusion symptoms (e.g., nightmares, flashbacks), avoidance of trauma-related stimuli, and negative thoughts and feelings.

Avatar Therapy: A form of therapy where avatars are effectively used within clinical settings, to reduce symptomatology in different mental disorders.

Schizophrenia: A mental disorder most often characterized by hallucinations, delusions, disorganized thinking, abnormal motor behavior, and/or negative symptoms.

Psychology: The scientific study of the human mind and behavior in areas such as human development, sports, health, clinical, social behavior, and cognitive processes.

Virtual Worlds: Any computer-based online social environments where individuals can come together to interact, communicate, and socialize with each other.

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD): A developmental disorder that typically has persistent deficits in social communication and social interactions. Individuals with ASD often struggle to express their emotions and feelings and build and maintain relationships.

Avatar: An image or figure that represents an individual in a virtual environment. It can range anywhere from simple drawings to detailed three-dimensional forms of an individual.

Telepsychology: Psychological services that are provided digitally, or online, as opposed to the traditional face-to-face approach.

Second Life (SL): A popular, widely-used virtual world where individuals can come together, in the form of avatars, to interact and socialize. SL is also used for educational purposes.

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