Smaraki Mohanty explores role of social virtual world in building psychological resilience against pandemic

The assistant professor of marketing explains in a Computers in Human Behavior article how the use of avatars in a social virtual world can help individuals alleviate the anxiety of contracting the coronavirus.

Smaraki Mohanty, assistant professor of marketing in the Martha and Spencer Love School of Business, identifies a novel coping strategy for strengthening individuals’ psychological resilience against the pandemic in the latest issue of Computers in Human Behavior.

headshot of Smaraki MohantyIn the article “The role of social virtual world in increasing psychological resilience during the on-going COVID-19 pandemic,” Mohanty, along with co-authors Iman Paul of Clarkson University and Rumela Sengupta of University of Illinois at Chicago, explain their research studies show a significant beneficial effect of representing oneself via an avatar in a social virtual world (SVW) on the psychological resilience towards contracting COVID-19.

“This effect is explained by the disembodied (i.e., out-of-body) experience one encounters in the SVW by digitally representing oneself via an avatar, which enables SVW users to project themselves onto a character in a parallel world that is immune to the COVID-19 virus,” the authors write, “thus alleviating the anxiety of contracting the virus themselves in the real world.”

The authors’ findings make a strong case for marketing computer-simulated games like SVWs as virtual therapy tools.

Prior to joining Elon in August 2021, Mohanty taught at Binghamton University, where she earned her doctorate. Her scholarly interests include human-machine interaction, consumer behavior, social media marketing and digital analytics.

Computers in Human Behavior is dedicated to examining the use of computers from a psychological perspective. The journal addresses both the use of computers in psychology, psychiatry and related disciplines, as well as the psychological impact of computer use on individuals, groups and society.