While the effects of virtual agents in terms of likeability, uncanniness, etc. are well explored, it is unclear how their appearance and the feedback they give affects people’s reactions. Is critical feedback from an agent embodied as a mouse or a robot taken less serious than from a human agent? In an intercultural study with 120 participants from Germany and the US, participants had to find hidden objects in a game and received feedback on their performance by virtual agents with different appearances. As some levels were designed to be unsolvable, critical feedback was unavoidable. We hypothesized that feedback would be taken more serious, the more human the agent looked. Also, we expected the subjects from the US to react more sensitively to criticism. Surprisingly, our results showed that the agents’ appearance did not significantly change the participants’ perception. Also, while we found highly significant differences in inspirational and motivational effects as well as in perceived task load between the two cultures, the reactions to criticism were contrary to expectations based on established cultural models. This work improves our understanding on how affective virtual agents are to be designed, both with respect to culture and to dialogue strategies.

Isaac Wang, Lea Buchweitz, Jesse Smith, Lara-Sophie Bornholdt, Jonas Grund, Jaime Ruiz, and Oliver Korn. 2020. “Wow, You Are Terrible at This!” – An Intercultural Study on Virtual Agents Giving Mixed Feedback. In IVA ’20: Proceedings of the 20th ACM International Conference on Intelligent Virtual Agents (IVA ’20), October 19–23, 2020, Virtual Event, Scotland, UK. ACM, New York, NY, USA, 8 pages. https://doi.org/10.1145/3383652.3423887

    title     = {``Wow, You Are Terrible at This!'' - An Intercultural Study on Virtual Agents Giving Mixed Feedback},
    author    = {Wang, Isaac and Buchweitz, Lea and Smith, Jesse and Bornholdt, Lara-Sophie and Grund, Jonas and Ruiz, Jaime and Korn, Oliver},
    year      = 2020,
    booktitle = {Proceedings of the 20th ACM International Conference on Intelligent Virtual Agents},
    location  = {Virtual Event, Scotland, UK},
    publisher = {Association for Computing Machinery},
    address   = {New York, NY, USA},
    series    = {IVA '20},
    numpages  = 8,
    doi       = {10.1145/3383652.3423887},
    isbn      = {978-1-4503-7586-3},
    url       = {https://doi.org/10.1145/3383652.3423887}