This paper investigates whether the nature of an online environment can prime users to create avatars that emphasize particular characteristics. Participants created an avatar for one of three contrasting settings: blogging, dating or gaming. For the most part, avatars in blogging were created to accurately reflect their owners' physical appearance, lifestyle and preferences. By contrast, participants in the dating and gaming treatments accentuated certain aspects of their avatar to reflect the tone and perceived expectations of the context. For instance, avatars in dating were made to look more attractive while avatars in gaming were made to look more intellectual. Yet, predominantly, these emphasized avatar attributes drew on participants' self-image, and thus avatars were perceived by their owners as highly similar to themselves. The implications of these results are discussed against current frameworks of online identity and behavior. Most importantly, we use our results to extract design recommendations for improving avatar-driven applications. (C) 2008 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.