Anthropomorphic virtual agents can serve as powerful technological mediators to impact motivational outcomes such as self-efficacy and attitude change. Such anthropomorphic agents can be designed as simulated social models in the Bandurian sense, providing social influence as virtual ‘role models’. Of particular value is the capacity for designing such agents as optimized social models for a target audience and context. Importantly, the visual presence and appearance of such agents can have a major impact on motivation and affect regardless of the underlying technical sophistication. Empirical results of different instantiations of agent presence and appearance are reviewed for both autonomous virtual agents and avatars that represent a user.