Persuasive Embodied Agents: Using Embodied Agents to Change People’s Behavior, Beliefs and Assessment

Matthew Pickard
Assistant Professor, University of New Mexico
Embodied Conversational Agents (i.e., avatars; ECAs) are appearing in increasingly many everyday contexts, such as e-commerce, occupational training, and airport security. Also common to a typical person’s daily life is persuasion. Whether being persuaded or persuading, the ability to change another person’s attitude or behavior is a thoroughly researched topic. However, little is known about ECAs’ ability to persuade and whether basic persuasion principles from human-human interactions will hold in human-ECA interactions. This work investigates this question. First, a broad review of persuasion literature, which serves as an inventory of manipulations to test in ECA contexts, is presented. This literature review serves an inventory to guide future Persuasive ECA work. The ECA literature is then reviewed. Two preliminary studies exploring the effects of physical attractiveness, voice quality, argument quality, common ground, authority, and facial similarity are presented. Finally, the culminating study testing the effectiveness of ECAs to elicit self-disclosure in automated interviewing is presented and discussed. The findings of that automated interviewing study suggest that ECAs may replace humans in automated interviewing contexts. The findings also suggest that ECAs that are manipulated to look like their interviewees are able to induce greater likeability, establish more rapport, and elicited more self-referencing language than ECAs that do not look like the interviewees.