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Chapter 10. Designing for Power > Computers Are Human, Too

Computers Are Human, Too

Clifford Nass and Byron Reeves, two professors at Stanford University, study people's responses to computers. By cleverly repurposing classic experiments in social psychology, they observed some remarkable behavior. They have published their findings in a book entitled The Media Equation.[2] They have demonstrated conclusively that humans react to computers in the same way that they react to other humans.

[2] Byron Reeves and Clifford Nass, The Media Equation; How People Treat Computers, Television, and New Media Like Real People and Places, Cambridge University Press, 1996, ISBN 1-57586-052-X.

Nass and Reeves say that “people are not evolved to twentieth-century technology,” and that “modern media now engage old brains…. Consequently, any medium that is close enough will get human treatment, even though people know it's foolish and even though they likely will deny it afterward.” To our human minds, computers behave less like rocks and trees than they do like humans, so we unconsciously treat them like people, even when we “believe it is not reasonable to do so.”


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