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

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Division of Research, Harvard Business School, 1998 - 16 pages
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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