Sin-hwa Kang and Jonathan Gratch: “Socially Anxious People Reveal More Personal Information with Virtual Counselors That Talk about Themselves using Intimate Human Back Stories”

September 25, 2012 | Brussels, Belgium

Speaker: Sin-hwa Kang and Jonathan Gratch
Host: The 17th Annual CyberPsychology & CyberTherapy Conference

Abstract: In this paper, we describe our findings from research designed to explore the effect of virtual human counselors’ self-disclosure using intimate human back stories on real human clients’ social responses in psychological counseling sessions. To investigate this subject, we designed an experiment involving two conditions of the counselors’ self-disclosure: human back stories and computer back stories. We then measured socially anxious users’ verbal self-disclosure. The results demonstrated that highly anxious users revealed personal information more than less anxious users when they interacted with virtual counselors who disclosed intimate information about themselves using human back stories. Furthermore, we found that greater inclination toward facilitated self-disclosure from highly anxious users following interaction with virtual counselors who employed human back stories rather than computer back stories. In addition, a further analysis of socially anxious users’ feelings of rapport demonstrated that virtual counselors elicited more rapport with highly anxious users than less anxious users when interacting with counselors who employed human back stories. This outcome was not found in the users’ interactions with counselors who employed computer back stories.