Conversations with a virtual human: Synthetic emotions and human responses
To test whether synthetic emotions expressed by a virtual human elicit positive or negative emotions in a human conversation partner and affect satisfaction towards the conversation, an experiment was conducted where the emotions of a virtual human were manipulated during both the listening and speaking phase of the dialogue. Twenty-four participants were recruited and were asked to have a real conversation with the virtual human on six different topics. For each topic the virtual human’s emotions in the listening and speaking phase were different, including positive, neutral and negative emotions. The results support our hypotheses that (1) negative compared to positive synthetic emotions expressed by a virtual human can elicit a more negative emotional state in a human conversation partner, (2) synthetic emotions expressed in the speaking phase have more impact on a human conversation partner than emotions expressed in the listening phase, (3) humans with less speaking confidence also experience a conversation with a virtual human as less positive, and (4) random positive or negative emotions of a virtual human have a negative effect on the satisfaction with the conversation. These findings have practical implications for the treatment of social anxiety as they allow therapists to control the anxiety evoking stimuli, i.e., the expressed emotion of a virtual human in a virtual reality exposure environment of a simulated conversation. In addition, these findings may be useful to other virtual applications that include conversations with a virtual human.
Qu C, Brinkman W, Ling Y, Wiggers P, Heynderickx I, (2014). Conversations with a virtual human: Synthetic emotions and human responses, Computers in Human Behavior, 34, 58-68. online