Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Why should we design robots with personality?

Just a quick tidbit from "The Media Equation" by Reeves and Nass, Chapter 7 on Personality of Interfaces.

Summary: Matching a digital helpers' personality to our own will make us perceive it as "more intelligent, knowledgeable, insightful, helpful, and useful"


Reeves and Nass did a study comparing how people with dominant and submissive personalities reacted to computers that gave information in two different styles.

For example, when describing sunglasses in a "Survival Items" task...

  • The "dominant" computer said: "In the desert, the intense sunlight will clearly cause blindness by the second day. Without adequate vision, survival will become impossible. The sunglasses are absolutely important."
  • The "submissive" computer said: "In the desert, it seems that the intense sunlight could possibly cause blindness by the second day. Without adequate vision, don't you think that survival might become more difficult? The sunglasses might be important."

They found that dominant people found the dominant computer more "intelligent, knowledgeable, insightful, helpful, and useful". And participants with a submissive character assigned the exact same traits -- more "intelligent, knowledgeable, insightful, helpful, and useful" -- to the submissive computer.

So maybe not all robots should be like the submissive butler robot. Someone with a dominant character would find it annoying, and prefer one that's more assertive.

And when we design robots and virtual helpers, we should consider the personality of the user. Maybe ;)

One might wonder: How can we get information about the personality of a user? Wouldn't it be strange that the first interaction with a robot might be to get a battery of questions about their extroversion, agreeableness, etc.?

Well, it turns out that becoming more like you over time has a better effect than being similar since the beginning. It's the basis of "imitation is flattery".

"Studies by psychologists show that people who start out different from a person but become similar over time are liked better than people who were always similar."

Their study, similar to the one above, showed that:

"Participants liked the computer more when it changed to conform to their respective personalities than when it remained similar."

No comments: