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      Can a Virtual Agent provide good Emotional Support?


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      Proceedings of the 32nd International BCS Human Computer Interaction Conference (HCI)

      Human Computer Interaction Conference

      4 - 6 July 2018

      HCI, Virtual agents, carers, affective computing, emotional support, personality, eHealth



            In this study we explore whether an emotional support message sent to an informal carer by a Virtual Agent provides good quality emotional support, compared to the same message sent by a friend or sister with whom they have either a close, medium, or distant relationship. We also explore whether these judgements are affected by personality. Participants recruited from Mechanical Turk rated an emotional support message for Suitability, provided qualitative feedback about their rating and then completed a personality measure. We found that the support message was rated worst when it came from the Computer, Distant-sister and Close-friend. While these were rated worse, they were not rated poorly, implying that support from a computer is valuable. There were three effects for personality which did not vary with the support giver’s Identity: agreeableness and emotional stability had a positive correlation with 3 sub-scales of supportiveness. A thematic analysis of comments revealed that people prefer emotional support from a human; they like empathy; support from close friends means more; they prefer personalised support; and they have higher expectations from family over friends.


            Author and article information

            July 2018
            July 2018
            : 1-10
            [0001]University of Southampton Southampton, UK
            [0002]University of Aberdeen Aberdeen, UK
            © Smith et al. Published by BCS Learning and Development Ltd. Proceedings of British HCI 2018. Belfast, UK.

            This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 Unported License. To view a copy of this license, visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

            Proceedings of the 32nd International BCS Human Computer Interaction Conference
            Belfast, UK
            4 - 6 July 2018
            Electronic Workshops in Computing (eWiC)
            Human Computer Interaction Conference
            Product Information: 1477-9358BCS Learning & Development
            Self URI (journal page): https://ewic.bcs.org/
            Electronic Workshops in Computing
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