Self Disclosure from AI Agents Increases Empathy from Humans

Category Machine Learning

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A new study conducted by Takahiro Tsumura and Seiji Yamada showed that self disclosure from anthropomorphic AI agents can increase empathy from humans and help inform the development of future AI tools.

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In a new study, participants showed more empathy for an online anthropomorphic artificial intelligence (AI) agent when it seemed to disclose personal information about itself while chatting with the participants. Takahiro Tsumura of The Graduate University for Advanced Studies, SOKENDAI in Tokyo, Japan, and Seiji Yamada of the National Institute of Informatics, also in Tokyo, present these findings in the open-access journal PLOS ONE on May 10, 2023.

Anthropomorphic AI agents are more likely to be accepted by people

The use of AI in daily life is increasing, raising interest in factors that might contribute to the level of trust and acceptance people feel towards AI agents. Prior research has suggested that people are more likely to accept artificial objects if the objects elicit empathy. For instance, people may empathize with cleaning robots, robots that mimic pets, and anthropomorphic chat tools that provide assistance on websites.

The AI agent's appearance did not have an effect on empathy levels

Earlier research has also highlighted the importance of disclosing personal information in building human relationships. Stemming from those findings, Tsumura and Yamada hypothesized that self-disclosure by an anthropomorphic AI agent might boost people's empathy toward those agents.

To test this idea, the researchers conducted online experiments in which participants had a text-based chat with an online AI agent that was visually represented by either a human-like illustration or an illustration of an anthropomorphic robot. The chat involved a scenario in which the participant and agent were colleagues on a lunch break at the agent's workplace. In each conversation, the agent seemed to self-disclose either highly work-relevant personal information, less-relevant information about a hobby, or no personal information.

Testing has shown that self disclosure from AI agents can evoke empathy towards them

The final analysis included data from 918 participants whose empathy for the AI agent was evaluated using a standard empathy questionnaire. The researchers found that, compared to less-relevant self-disclosure, highly work-relevant self-disclosure from the AI agent was associated with greater empathy from participants. A lack of self-disclosure was associated with suppressed empathy. The agent's appearance as either a human or anthropomorphic robot did not have a significant association with empathy levels.

Humans show more empathy for AI agents that take on a conversational personality

These findings suggest that self-disclosure by AI agents may, indeed, elicit empathy from humans, which could help inform future development of AI tools.

The authors add, "This study investigates whether self-disclosure by anthropomorphic agents affects human empathy. Our research will change the negative image of artifacts used in society and contribute to future social relationships between humans and anthropomorphic agents." .

The study included 918 participants

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