YOEL BOIVIN - As an Author


(left) spent the years leading up to the publication of this book exploring Southeast Asia and working as a journalist, both on a freelance basis and at a newspaper in Thailand. Noel now lives in Bangkok, from which base he continues to explore Southeast Asia and surrounding countries. It was in Bangkok that Noel began work on “The Man Who Scared a Shark to Death”, with writing collaborator and fellow “Frank Magazine” alumnus Christopher Lombardo. Hundreds of emails and thousands of air-miles later, this book was born. Boivin has written for the National Post, Calgary Herald and is a contributor to Cracked. He has appeared on KISW radio in Seattle.

After a stint as a student and drug pusher for lab rats at the University of Toronto, CHRISTOPHER LOMBARDO (right) turned his attention away from the life sciences and (briefly) to journalism school, from which he dropped out to pursue freelancing, and write books such as this one.

Lombardo speaks Italian very badly, German much less so and his loyalties are divided along these, his ethnic lines every World Cup tournament. Chris has written for the Globe & Mail, National Post and Toronto Star and is a contributor to Cracked. He has made appearances on CBC Newsworld TV, CBC Radio and as a blogging expert on CFRB radio. He lives in downtown Toronto.

Online Behavior Study: Racial bias in the virtual world

Virtual worlds like Second Life came with the promise that all of the limitations of this terrestrial sphere would vanish. Sickly hermits desperately in need of the sun’s rays could live their second and better lives in peace and adapt an avatar that reflected the extent of their own imaginations. The ugly could be good looking, and a cyber-race of hobgoblins could lie down in unity with virtual unicorns… or something like that.

But that’s not exactly how it’s turned out according to a recent study conducted by two social psychologists at Northwestern University. They logged on to There.com, which is like Second Life, only apparently not as good at weeding out nosey-Parker social scientists.

They conducted a “door-in-the-face” (DITF) experiment, which surprisingly has nothing to do with the treatment we like to give religious proselytizers and those guys who want to fix the rate on your gas bill for the next 11 millenniums.

A DITF experiment is one in which the experimenter starts by making an unreasonably large request and then follows it up with a more moderate one. Psychology tells us that a person who is first shocked by an unreasonable request will be more likely to comply with the more moderate one. Hence, if you ask a perfect stranger in a restaurant if you can finish her meal for her, she’ll probably say no, but when you follow that up with a request for a bread roll, well Bob’s your uncle.

Online this meant that the researchers (as clipboard toting avatars presumably) went around asking people to do things that were inconvenient or would take a long time (we won’t bore you with the details as we don’t understand them), and followed these up with more moderate requests.

DITF worked as expected, but researchers noted that there was a difference between the success that white avatars had with the technique and that of dark-toned avatars.

“You would think when you’re wandering around this fantasyland, operating outside of the normal laws of time, space and gravity and meeting all types of strange characters, that you might behave differently,” said one of the researchers. “But people exhibited the same type of behavior — and the same type of racial bias — that they show in the real world all the time.”

Psychologists said they look forward to further exploration of the online world in their never-ending quest to confirm all of our worst assumptions about human nature.