Rabindra Ratan Ph.D.

Rabindra Ratan

Associate Professor, AT&T Endowed Chair

  • Media & Information
‪(727) 537-6229‬


Rabindra (Robby) Ratan (CV) is an Associate Professor and AT&T Endowed Chair at Michigan State University’s Department of Media and Information as well as Director of the Social and Psychological Approaches to Research on Technology-Interaction Effects (SPARTIE) Lab. He is also an affiliated faculty member of the MSU Department of Psychology, the MSU College of Education’s program in Educational Psychology and Educational Technology, and the MSU Center for Gender in a Global Context. He received his Ph.D. from USC’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, his M.A. in Communication from Stanford University, and his B.A. in Science, Technology and Society, also from Stanford University.

Dr. Ratan conducts social and psychological research on the effects of human-technology interaction, focusing on how media technologies (e.g., XR/VR/AR/MR, avatars, video games, agents/AI) influence meaningful outcomes (e.g., equity, well-being, motivation) across societal contexts (e.g., education, health, industry). He is particularly interested in the Proteus effect (i.e., avatar characteristics influencing user behaviors), human-AI interaction, gender stereotypes in gaming, and virtual meetings. In addition to conducting research on these phenomena, he has also been teaching all of his MSU classes in virtual reality since 2022.

Examples of current and recent research questions include: 

  1. What psychological factors influence experiences of teaching and meeting in virtual reality and mixed reality? 
  2. In what ways can avatars and virtual worlds be harnessed to improve performance and motivation in education, health, and industry? 
  3. How can virtual meeting platforms better support well-being and social equity? 
  4. How can interactions with AI (e.g., in transportation technologies) be designed to promote meaningful outcomes (e.g., environmentally sound behaviors)? 
  5. To what extent are gender stereotypes in the video game context responsible for gender disparity in STEM fields and how can video games/avatars better combat stereotype threat?

Dr. Ratan has authored over 70 peer-reviewed articles in publication venues such as Media Psychology, the Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, Communication Research, Computers in Human Behavior, Games and Culture, New Media & Society, Computers & Education, the International Journal of Communication, and SIGCHI. He has received grant funding from the National Science Foundation, the Superior Health Foundation, non-profit organizations, and technology companies, such as Spin Mobility (Ford Motor Company) and Techsmith, Inc. 

Dr. Ratan regularly teaches his classes in virtual reality—students who do not own a VR headset borrow one for the semester from Dr. Ratan’s lab—and his students resoundingly prefer this method over traditional online teaching platforms. He has received multiple teaching awards, including the 2017 MSU Teacher-Scholar Award and the 2015 & 2023 MSU AT&T Instructional Technology Award, he was a 2014-2015 MSU Lilly Teaching Fellow, and he adopts an inclusive and non-traditional approach to teaching (e.g., academic raps, skateboard in class, teaching philosophy). He has held leadership roles in his field (e.g., the International Communication Association), helped organize global conferences (e.g., Meaningful Play), and served as peer-reviewer for over 60 academic journals and proceedings. His lab outreach/production team, SPARTIE-Lab Productions, produces a podcast and edutainment videos relating to the lab’s research. Dr. Ratan has also written opinion pieces for Wired Magazine and The Conversation, and his work has received international media coverage in news outlets such as National Public Radio, the Canadian Broadcasting Company, and the Washington Post.

Dr. Ratan is also founder of the Meaningful XR conference, the MSU XR Co-op, and the MSU Silicon Valley Field Experience

For more info, please see his CV or Google Scholar pages.


MI101: Understanding Media (undergraduate)

MI299/MI401: Understanding Virtual Reality Experiences (undergraduate) -- Taught in Virtual Reality

MI401: Avatar Psychology (undergraduate) -- Taught in Virtual Reality

MI401: Understanding Future Media: Reflections in the Black Mirror (undergraduate)

MI960: Media & Technology (Ph.D.)

UGS200H: Video Game Impacts: Play with Meaning (honors undergraduate)

CAS 496: Hip-Hop, Communication & Society (undergraduate)


Associate Professor and AT&T Endowed Chair
Dept. of Media & Information
College of Communication Arts & Sciences
Michigan State University

Social and Psychological Approaches to Research on Technology-Interaction Effects (SPARTIE) Lab.

Affiliate Faculty
Department of Psychology
College of Social Sciences, MSU

Affiliate Faculty 
Ed Psychology and Ed Technology Program
College of Education, MSU

Core Faculty
Center for Gender in Global Context
International Studies & Programs, MSU

Research and Teaching

Proteus Effect (theory, application, expansion), Avatars, Agents, Media use in transportation technology (e.g,. autonomous vehicles, escooters), Virtual Reality, Video Games, Education Technology, Stereotype Threat, Media Effects, Education and Health Outcomes

Thematic Research Areas
Research Centers and Labs
Selected Publications (chosen to reflect Ratan's main interests):

Beyea, D., Ratan, R., Lei, Y., Hales, G., & Lim, C. (2023). A new meta-analysis of the Proteus effect: Studies in VR find stronger effect sizes. PRESENCE: Virtual and Augmented Reality. https://doi.org/10.1162/pres_a_00392 


Wong, S. & Ratan, R. (2023). How Does Exposure to General and Sexual Harassment Relate to Female Gamers’ Coping Strategies and Mental Health? Games & Culture. https://doi.org/10.1177/15554120231177600


Mitchell, K.M., Ratan, R., Maas, M.K., Holt, K., Slaker, J.S., Gambino, A. (2023). Virtual Reality Versus Flatscreen Pornography: Correlations and Effects on Relationship Satisfaction, Rape-Myth Acceptance, and Problematic Use. PRESENCE: Virtual and Augmented Reality, p 1-19. doi: https://doi.org/10.1162/pres_a_00399


Ratan, R., Klein, M., Ucha, C., & Cherchiglia, L. (2022). Avatar Customization Orientation and Undergraduate-Course Outcomes: Actual-self avatars are better than ideal-self and future-self avatars. Computers & Education, 191, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.compedu.2022.104643 


Ratan, R., Ucha, C., Lei, Y., Lim, C., Triwibowo, W., Yelon, S., Sheahan, A., Lamb, B., Deni, B., & Chen, V. H. H. (2022). How do social presence and active learning in synchronous and asynchronous online classes relate to students’ perceived course gains?. Computers & Education, 191, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.compedu.2022.104621

Ratan, R., Chen, V.H.H., De Grove, F., Breuer, J., Quandt, T. & Williams, R. (2022). Gender, Gaming Motives, and Genre: Comparing Singaporean, German, and American Players. IEEE Transactions on Games, 14(3), p. 456-465. https://doi.org/10.1109/TG.2021.3116077


Kao, D., Ratan, R., Mousas, C., Joshi, A., & Melcer, E. (2022). Audio Matters Too: How Audial Avatar Customization Enhances Visual Avatar Customization. Proceedings of the CHI Conference on Human Factors (CHI ’22), 1-27. doi.org/10.1145/3491102.3501848


Ratan, R., Miller, D.B., Bailenson, J.N., (2021). Facial Appearance Dissatisfaction Explains Differences in Zoom Fatigue. CyberPsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking. https://doi.org/10.1089/cyber.2021.0112

Ratan, R., Boumis, J.K., Kuang, S., Gambino, A., Huang, K-T. (2021). Reality Stems From Modality: Stereotype Threat Effects of a STEM Game in Augmented and Virtual Reality. Frontiers in Virtual Reality, 2. https://doi.org/10.3389/frvir.2021.636643 


Ratan, R., Earle, K., Rosenthal, S., Chen, V. H. H., Gambino, A., Goggin, G., Stevens, H., Li, B., & Lee, K. M. (2021). The (digital) medium of mobility is the message: Examining the influence of e-scooter mobile app perceptions on e-scooter use intent. Computers in Human Behavior Reports. doi.org/10.1016/j.chbr.2021.100076

Ratan, R., Earle, K., Rosenthal, S., Chen, V. H. H., Gambino, A., Goggin, G., Stevens, H., Li, B., & Lee, K. M. (2021). The (digital) medium of mobility is the message: Examining the influence of e-scooter mobile app perceptions on e-scooter use intent. Computers in Human Behavior Reports. doi.org/10.1016/j.chbr.2021.100076

Kao, D., Ratan, R., Mousas, C., & Magana, A. J. (2021). The Effects of a Self-Similar Avatar Voice in Educational Games. Proceedings of the ACM on Human-Computer Interaction, (CHI PLAY), 1-28. https://doi.org/10.1145/3474665

Fordham, J., Ratan, R., Huang, K.T., Zhou, W., & Silva., K., (2020). Stereotype Threat in a Video Game Context and Its Influence on Perceptions of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM): Avatar-Induced Active Self-Concept as a Possible Mitigator. American Behavioral Scientist.

Gambino, A., Fox, J., & Ratan, R. (2020). Building a Stronger CASA: Extending the Computers Are Social Actors Paradigm. Human-Machine Communication, 1(1), 5.

Ratan, R., Beyea, D., Li, B., & Graciano, L. (2020). Avatar Characteristics Induce Users’ Behavioral Conformity with Small-to-Medium Effect Sizes: A Meta-Analysis of the Proteus Effect. Media Psychology

Ratan, R. (2019). When Automobiles Are Avacars: A Self-Other-Utility Approach to Cars and Avatars. International Journal of Communication, 13. 

Ratan, R., Fordham, J. Leith, A., & Williams, D. (2019). Women Keep it Real: Avatar Gender Choice in League of Legends. CyberPsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking, 22(4).

Huang, K.T., Ball, C., Francis, J., Ratan, R., Boumis, J., & Fordham, J. (2019). Augmented Versus Virtual Reality in Education: An Exploratory Study Examining Science Knowledge Retention When Using Augmented Reality/Virtual Reality Mobile Applications. CyberPsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking, 22(2), 105-110. https://doi.org/10.1089/cyber.2018.0150 


Sah, Y.J., Ratan, R., Tsai, H.S., Peng, W., & Sarinopoulos, I. (2016). Are You What Your Avatar Eats? Health-behavior Effects of Avatar-manifested Self-concept. Media Psychology, 20(4), 632-657. doi: 10.1080/15213269.2016.1234397.  

Shen, C., Ratan, R., Leavitt, A., & Cai, Y. D. (2016). Do Men Advance Faster Than Women? Debunking the Gender Performance Gap in Two Massively Multiplayer Online Games. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 21(4), 312-329. doi: 10.1111/jcc4.12159.

Ratan, R. & Dawson, M (2016). When Mii is Me:  A psychophysiological examination of avatar self-relevance. Communication Research, 43(8), 1065-1093. doi: 10.1177/0093650215570652

Ratan, R., Rikard, R. V., Wanek, C., McKinley, M., Johnson, L., & Sah, Y. J. (2016). Introducing Avatarification: An experimental examination of how avatars influence student motivation. In System Sciences (HICSS), 2016 49th Hawaii International Conference on (pp. 51-59). IEEE.


Ratan, R. & Sah, Y.J. (2015). Leveling Up on Stereotype Threat: The role of avatar customization and avatar embodiment. Computers in Human Behavior, 50, 367-374. doi: 10.1016/j.chb.2015.04.010 


Ratan, R., Taylor, N., Hogan, J., Kennedy, T.L.M., & Williams, D. (2015). Stand by your Man: An examination of gender disparity in League of Legends. Games and Culture, 10(5), 438-462. doi: 10.1177/1555412014567228. 


Ratan, R. & Tsai, H. S. (2014). Dude, where's my Avacar?  A mixed-method examination of communication in the driving context. Pervasive and Mobile Computing, 14(c), 112-128. doi: 10.1016/j.pmcj.2014.05.011 

Recent Awards:

MSU IT AT&T Excellence in Teaching with Technology Award, 2023, for courses taught in virtual reality (Understanding Virtual Reality Experiences and Avatar Psychology). https://tech.msu.edu/news/2023/04/faculty-across-campus-recognized-for-excellence-in-teaching-with-technology/ 

MSU Teacher Scholar award, 2017, awarded annually to six members of the tenure system faculty for their devotion to and skill in teaching.  http://msutoday.msu.edu/news/2017/2017-teacher-scholar-awards/

MSU AT&T Award for Best Blended Course, 2015. TC401-731: Science Fiction, Communication & Technology. http://attawards.msu.edu/winners/2015/tc-401-731

MSU Lilly Teaching Fellow, 2014-2015. Fellowship recognizing teaching excellence and providing support for research on the scholarship of teaching and learning.

Contact Information

404 Wilson Rd.
Communication Arts and Sciences Building
Michigan State University