I'm not a puppet, I'm a real boy! Gender presentations by virtual influencers and how they are received

Yu Hao Lee, Chien Wen (Tina) Yuan*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)


Virtual influencers, or computer-generated virtual characters, have attracted numerous followers on social media like Instagram with their unconstrained physical bodies and persona profiles. Due to the characteristic of visibility and hyperconnectivity of social media, virtual influencers' public presentations can influence their followers and how they respond to virtual influencers and similar influencers as a collective phenomenon. Through a content analysis of 517 posts and 21,724 user comments from 17 of the most popular English-speaking human-like virtual influencers on Instagram, our study investigates how virtual influencers leverage the flexibility in presenting their affect, sexual display, virtual nature, and humanness (biological senses) and how their followers respond to these dimensions accordingly. We compared if female and male virtual influencers followed gender stereotypes in their self-presentations and if the followers responded accordingly. Our findings show that the most popular virtual influencers do not seem to leverage their flexible gender identity, but often present themselves according to gender stereotypes and receive corresponding comments based on their gender. Male virtual influencers are significantly more likely to “pass” as an actual human, while female virtual influencers are more likely to disclose their virtual nature.

Original languageEnglish
Article number107927
JournalComputers in Human Behavior
Publication statusPublished - 2023 Dec
Externally publishedYes


  • Affect
  • Content analysis
  • Gender stereotypes
  • Social media
  • Virtual influencers

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Human-Computer Interaction
  • General Psychology


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