Are People Polite to Computers?: Responses to Computer-based Interviewing Systems

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Division of Research, Harvard Business School, 1998 - 16 pages
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The present studies were designed to test whether people are "polite" to computers. The tendency for people to engage in polite, "socially desirable" behavior in interpersonal interaction has been well-documented in the social psychological literature: An interviewer who directly asks about him-or herself will receive more positive and less varied responses than if the same question is posed by a third party. Two experiments were designed to determine if the same phenomenon occurs in human-computer interaction. In the first experiment (N = 30), participants performed a task with a text-based computer, and were then interviewed about the performance of that computer on one of three loci: 1) the same computer; 2) a paper-and-pencil questionnaire; 3) a different (but identical) text-based computer. Consistent with the politeness prediction, same-computer participants evaluated the computer more positively and more homogeneously than did either paper-and-pencil or different-computer participants. Experiment 2 (N = 30) replicated the results with voice-based computer(s). Implications for computer-based interviewing are discussed.

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