Research Reveals Human-like Virtual Assistants Can Deter Help-seeking

Research-Reveals-Human-like-Virtual-Assistants-Can-Deter-Help-seeking

A research published in Psychological Science, on January 4, 2018, suggests that humanlike virtual assistants may deter people from seeking help on tasks that are supposed to measure achievement.

Psychological science researchers have found that as artificial intelligence makes life easier, people are expected to become deterrent about seeking help, relying on computers for completion of competitive tasks.

“We demonstrate that anthropomorphic features may not prove beneficial in online learning settings, especially among individuals who believe their abilities are fixed and who thus worry about presenting themselves as incompetent to others,” says psychological scientist and study author Daeun Park of Chungbuk National University. “Our results reveal that participants who saw intelligence as fixed were less likely to seek help, even at the cost of lower performance.”

Previous research has shown that people are inclined to see computerized systems as social beings with only a couple social cues. This social dynamic has the potential to make the systems seem less intimidating and more user-friendly, but Park and coauthors Sara Kim and Ke Zhang wondered whether that would be true in a context where performance matters, such as with online learning platforms.

“Online learning is an increasingly popular tool across most levels of education and most computer-based learning environments offer various forms of help, such as a tutoring system that provides context-specific help,” says Park. “Often, these help systems adopt humanlike features; however, the effects of these kinds of help systems have never been tested.”

In an online study, researchers had 187 participants complete a task that intended to measured intelligence. In the task, participants saw a group of three words (e.g., room, blood, salts) and were supposed to come up with a fourth word that related to all three (e.g., bath). On the more difficult problems, they automatically received a hint from an onscreen computer icon, some of them saw a computer helper with humanlike features, whereas others saw a helper that looked like a regular computer.

Participants reported greater embarrassment and concerns about self-image when seeking help from the anthropomorphized computer versus the regular computer, however, these results were reported only for those who believed that intelligence is a fixed, not malleable trait.

“Educators and program designers should pay special attention to unintended meanings that arise from humanlike features embedded online learning features,” says Park. “Furthermore, when purchasing educational software, we recommend parents review not only the contents but also the way the content is delivered.”

Increasing adoption of mobile phones is increasing the demand for virtual assistants, as per intelligent virtual assistant market report published by Coherent Market Insights.

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