Dr. Yee and his colleagues conducted research out of Stanford University in 2007 into the online gaming industry. He revealed some interesting findings as they apply to massive role playing games such as “Second Life.” In these games, users create personalized characters and interact with other players in a rule-free environment. Characters are free to interact as they please, have houses, automobiles, jobs and attend social gatherings. There are no set parameters to these interactive games yet Dr. Yee found that users still followed set non-verbal rules. That is, male characters tended to hold larger distances between other males and females tended to hold less distance between themselves and other females. Male characters also maintained less eye contact with other males whereas females did not. His research also draws attention to other social norms such as avoiding interactions with more eccentric characters. In one case, it was a naked character in a city park setting.
It seems therefore that non-verbal body language norms are so engrained in us through our culture and genetics that we bring these into environments that aren’t even real showing that body language is potent and ubiquitous!