Comforting Agents Daniel Schulman Timothy Bickmore Relational Agents Group College of Computer and Information Science Northeastern University
Relational Agents Group • Relational agents are designed to establish long-term social-emotional relationships with people to facilitate health care and education programs.
Relational Agents Group • Just-in-Time information for exercise adoption.
Relational Agents Group • Virtual patient advocates for hospital discharge.
Relational Agents Group • Medication adherence for adults w/ schizophrenia
General Research Issues • What behaviors are necessary to establish and maintain a long-term relationship? • How can an agent produce these behaviors?
Comforting • Comforting is a key relationship-building behavior. • And an important determiner of outcomes in healthcare.
Agents that Limit User Expressivity • Multiple-choice responses – eliminate misunderstandings. Many users complain of lack of expressivity: “She would ask a question and I would have a choice, one, two, three, four. But I could never explain… I don’t feel that it gets the true feeling, the true experience of a person.”
Expressivity vs. Empathic Accuracy High Empathic Accuracy/ Low Expressivity • Users dislike reduced expressivity. • But we can provide accurate comforting. High Expressivity/ Low Empathic Accuracy • High user expressivity. • Cannot accurately infer their emotional state. • Provide only a generic comforting message. Research Question: Is high empathic accuracy or high user expressivity more effective for comforting?
Related Work • (Klein et. al., 99) Induced frustration and responded via text dialogs. • Multiple-choice input w/ empathic response better than free input (venting) w/ no response. • (Hone 05) Embodied agent is more effective than text-only. • Both only tested empathic response versus no response at all.
Rest (Baseline) Mood Induction Intervention Experimental Design • Within-subjects, 2 conditions. • Subjects receive a mood induction, then an agent intervention. • Conditions use different intervention scripts. Anxiety
Relational Agent Multiple-choice input (Low user expressivity) Free-speech input (High user expressivity)
Wizard-of-Oz Control • Wizard controls agent by indicating what response user made. • For free speech, wizard controls head-nodding. control
Relational Agent Interventions High Accuracy High Expressivity “How are you feeling right now?” “How are you feeling right now?” stressed exhausted etc. great free speech input Happy facial display “…how ___ are you?” “Really? That is interesting to hear” Close-up concern display comforting
Measures • Heart rate and Galvanic Skin Response • Positive and Negative Affect Schedule (PANAS) • Attitude towards agent. • Satisfaction • Desire to continue • Liking • Perceived caring
Results • Preliminary results (N=16) indicate that high empathic accuracy is better • Significant on self-reported affect and satisfaction with agent. • Near-significant on most other measures. • More complete results (N=28) coming soon…
Future Work • Input modalities (touchscreen vs. speech) • Content of messages: • Varying person-centeredness and nonverbal immediacy. • Generating comforting dialogue given a description of eliciting events.
Mood Induction • Timed arithmetic • Time is manipulated to slightly less than needed: • 3 correct → 90% time used. • 3 wrong → 10% slower. • Failure manipulation: all subjects fail to get the “average” 60% correct.