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Bare skin on the internet: A human behavior finding you won't want to miss

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
Women expose more naked skin in the virtual world, finds new study.

In the interest of studying human behavior, scientists recently took a peek at how interacting in the virtual world is different for women than men. In a new investigation, researchers found women show more naked skin than men, regardless of body shape or size.

According to the study, published in the journal PLOS ONE by Matthieu Guitton and colleagues from Laval University, Canada, we all need to cover up in response to climate, environmental, physical and cultural constraints.

The study revealed 70 percent male avatars in the virtual world Second Life cover up 75 to 100 percent of their bodies. Conversely, just 5% of women did, with 49% covering just 25 to 49 percent of their skin; compared to just 9% of males.

Guitton explains in a press release: "Virtual settings provide a unique tool to study human behavior unhindered by physical and environmental constraints. This tool enabled us to find a dramatic gender difference in the propensity to disclose naked skin."

The researchers say it gives them a chance to understand how interacting socially differs between the real and virtual world and between genders. In the real world women seem to prefer to go all out with clothing. But the virtual world appears to be an entirely different story.

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In the real world, women don’t mind spending money on clothing and especially accessories. But in the Second Life world where even designed clothing is cheap, women still prefer baring their bodies.

“In the virtual world, women may be more prone to reveal skin to “collect information” via skin contact, or any related kind of nonverbal communication,” Guitton said.
It’s also interesting to note Second Life avatars have no genitalia to start with. Men have to find or buy a penis. Women are easily recognized by their body shape. Lack of a penis doesn’t answer why men keep their virtual clothes on but women don’t.

Or maybe it’s just because the internet allows us an opportunity to let go of inhibitions. If that’s so, then the study might suggest women are more comfortable in their skin than men…maybe.

The researchers say the finding provided information about how naked skin affects social interaction in both the real and virtual world.

Lomanowska AM, Guitton MJ (2012)
“Virtually Naked: Virtual Environment Reveals Sex-Dependent Nature of Skin Disclosure”
PLoS ONE 7(12): e51921.

Image credit: Bing



There are an estimated 4500 mammalian species on this planet, and only one needs to cover up. It goes back a long time, and the fashion started with a fig leaf. Something related to shame, although we seem to be getting over that. More and more topless women on the beaches. Men still wear the old togs. Fashion does not mean that much to males, although I seem to find more and more males are going to the same barber! They have the same haircut, although it is difficult to tell whether it is a haircut or if they just came out of bed. But you are right! Women show more and, like men, a lot of them are overweight and it does not necessarily look good.
But when it gets cold, there is a need for sure - but not in the 'virtual' world