Silicon Sycophants: The Effects of Computers that FlatterInternational Journal of Human-Computer Studies, 46(5), 551-561
A laboratory experiment examines the claims that (1) humans are susceptible to flattery from computers and (2) the effects of flattery from computers are the same as the effects of flattery from humans. In a cooperative task with a computer, subjects (N=41) received one of three types of feedback from a computer: "sincere praise," "flattery" (insincere praise), or "generic feedback." Compared to generic-feedback subjects, flattery subjects reported more positive affect, better performance, more positive evaluations of the interaction, and more positive regard for the computer, even though subjects knew that the flattery from the computer was simply noncontingent feedback. Subjects in the sincere praise condition responded similarly to those in the flattery condition. The study concludes that flattery from a computer has the same positive effects as sincere praise from a computer, and that the effects of flattery from a computer are the same as the documented effects for flattery among humans. These findings suggest significant implications for the design of interactive technologies.
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