Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Mimicking is more persuasive

(Picture credit
Excel-web sharing of spreadsheetsInteresting results from a Stanford study. A computer-generated sales agent was programmed to mimic a human prospect's facial movements in a "conversation". Sales agents that mimicked the prospect's movements (with a four second delay) were considerably more successful than agents programmed with pre-recorded facial movements:

...Researchers at Stanford University's Virtual Human Interaction Lab strapped 69 student volunteers into an immersive, 3-D virtual-reality rig, where test subjects found themselves sitting across the table from a "digital agent" -- a computer-generated man or woman -- programmed to deliver a three-minute pitch advocating a notional university security policy requiring students to carry ID whenever they're on campus.

The anthropomorphic cyberhuckster featured moving lips and blinking eyes on a head that nodded and swayed realistically. But unbeknownst to the test subjects, the head movements weren't random. In half the sessions, the computer was programmed to mimic the student's movements exactly, with a precise four-second delay; if a test subject tilted her head thoughtfully and looked up at a 15-degree angle, the computer would repeat the gesture four seconds later...

...The results, to be published in the August issue of the journal Psychological Science, were dramatic... The remaining students liked the mimicking agent more than the recorded agent, rating the former more friendly, interesting, honest and persuasive. They also paid better attention to the parroting presenter, looking away less often. Most significantly, they were more likely to come around to the mimicking agent's way of thinking on the issue of mandatory ID...

Wired: AI Seduces Stanford Students

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