APR 15, 2024 2:14 PM PDT

People Feel More 'Heard' Talking to AI than Untrained Humans

WRITTEN BY: Annie Lennon

Messages generated by AI can make recipients feel more 'heard' than those by untrained humans- provided they don't know they're talking to an AI. The findings raise conceptual questions about the meaning of 'being heard' and how AI could be used to aid human communication. The corresponding study was published in PNAS.

For the research, investigators surveyed people's feelings of being heard and related perceptions and emotions after receiving a response from a human or AI. Participants were told that messages were either generated by an AI or human responder- even if the opposite was true at times.

"What we found was that both the actual source of the message and the presumed source of the message played a role," said Cheryl Wakslak, associate professor of management and organization at the University of Southern California Marshall School of Business, in a press release, "People felt more heard when they received an AI message than a human message, but when they believed a message came from AI, this made them feel less heard."

"Of course these effects may change over time, but one of the interesting things we found was that the two effects we observed were fairly similar in magnitude. Whereas there is a positive effect of getting an AI message, there is a similar degree of response bias when a message is identified as coming from AI, leading the two effects to essentially cancel each other out," she added. 

The researchers found, however, that people who felt more positively toward AI experienced fewer negative effects. Prof Wakslak noted that it would thus be interesting to see how people's attitudes change towards AI as familiarity and experience grow. 

The researchers also noted that AI was 'ironically' better at using empathetic and validating emotional support strategies than humans. For example, AI demonstrated a more disciplined approach to communication and refrained from making overwhelming practical suggestions. The researchers noted that AI could perhaps help humans understand each other better and respond in ways that provide more emotional support. 


Sources: Science DailyPNAS

About the Author
Bachelor's (BA/BS/Other)
Annie Lennon is a writer whose work also appears in Medical News Today, Psych Central, Psychology Today, and other outlets.
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