UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Is a good bot better than a mediocre human? : chatbots as alternatives sources of social connection Folk, Dunigan


Around the world, hundreds of millions of people have used social chatbots designed to provide companionship to their users. But can people reap genuine feelings of social connection and happiness from interacting with chatbots? Across four pre-registered studies (N = 1201), participants shared good news with an interaction partner whom they believed was either a chatbot or a human. The conversation partner responded in either a highly responsive or less responsive manner. Across the studies, interacting with a highly responsive chatbot was more rewarding than interacting with a less responsive human. Participants who believed they interacted with a highly responsive chatbot felt more rapport, were more socially connected, and were in a better mood than participants who interacted with a less responsive human. Despite their inherent lack of agency, chatbots that are programmed to respond in an optimal manner may deliver greater social benefits than suboptimal human conversation partners.

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