As avatars gain prominence in health-promoting applications, understanding how health-related avatar appearance characteristics could affect users’ behavior is crucial. Drawing upon the Proteus effect, avatars can positively and negatively affect health behaviors, depending on whether the avatar appearance is aligned with stereotypes about healthy or unhealthy behavior. Investigating avatar appearances is essential to understand potential negative health effects. Three experiments in a non-immersive virtual supermarket examined whether controlling an overweight avatar negatively affected (1) intentions to eat healthy and (2) food choice healthiness in the virtual supermarket, thereby investigating avatar allocation type (Study 1) and visual perspective (Study 2) as moderators. The studies employed 2 (Avatar body size: overweight vs. healthy weight) by 2 (Avatar allocation type: self-assigned vs. experimenter-assigned [Study 1]; Visual perspective: first-person vs. third-person [Studies 2 and 3]) between-subjects designs. None of the studies demonstrated the Proteus effect, and no moderating role of avatar allocation type was found (Study 1). Unexpectedly, controlling an overweight avatar resulted in stronger intentions to eat healthy from a third-person perspective only (Study 2), which led to the hypothesis that the overweight avatar functioned as a fear stimulus. To test this, a health message was added that highlighted obesity as a health risk (Study 3). The addition of this message did not affect intentions to eat healthy and food choice healthiness. The combination of fear appeal and self-perception theory as explanatory frameworks for behavioral responses to avatars opens avenues for new research, such as exploring specific conditions that trigger each effect.

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