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Chapter Three. The Psychology of How Peo... > Social-Psychological Research

Social-Psychological Research

Among the most fascinating of the many experiments that have been conducted on the subject are the ones done by Stanford University professors Clifford Nass and Byron Reeves and documented in their book, The Media Equation: How People Treat Computers, Television, and New Media Like Real People and Places. The following is a distillation of some of their findings.

The professors ran a series of studies to determine if the “rules” of social psychology (that had been tested thousands of times over the past century or so) would hold true not only for person-to-person interactions, but also for person-to-media interactions. They took some tried-and-true social psychological interactions (based on famous experiments dealing with flattery, reciprocity, expert opinion, and so on) and tested them using a person and a computer (or another media device, such as a television). Please note that these experiments did not deal directly with people interacting with speech-recognition systems, but rather people interacting with computers in a social way. Their results showed that people interact with media in the same way that they interact with other people and these media become social actors (that is, entities that emulate aspects of human behavior). Testing later conducted by the professors on speech recognition bore out the conclusion that speech-recognition systems are yet another media with which people interact adhering to the rules of social-psychological interaction.


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