Emotion and Perception Lab

Impact of virtually-generated characters: human aspects of bots (2019-2023)

On the one hand, virtual characters (bots) may be similar to people in terms of appearance and behavior, but on the other hand, they cannot be considered fully "human". The main goal of this project is to answer the question about the boundaries of the analogy between interactions with real people and interactions with virtual characters. To investigate this, I plan three lines of research covering performance-based as well as economic and moral decision-making tasks. The tasks will differ in terms of the explicitness of the correct answer (from an easy to define the appropriate solution in performance tasks to the inability to choose the only correct option in moral dilemmas) and complexity of the social situation. The main outcome of the experiments will be the answer to the question of how "humanly" are virtual characters treated. I expect that if virtual humans are treated like real people, I will observe similar behavioral patterns as when people have real social interactions.  Additionally, I plan to systematically manipulate the external characteristics of a bot to find the determinants of its influence on participant's behavior. Specifically, I will attempt to achieve the level of realism (the degree to which virtual stimuli are perceived as real by the user) appropriate to induce a sense of copresence (feeling of being in a virtual world with others) and consequent influence of virtual characters on people’s behavior. The entire project will therefore answer a broader question about the possibility, scope and nature of the influence of bots on human behavior.  

Radosław Sterna MA