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  • Transcriber:

  • Now, a few years back, I was having a barbecue with friends and family.

  • As usual, we talked about the weather, the good food or TV shows to watch.

  • So nothing out of the ordinary

  • until one attendee casually mentioned

  • that he and his wife hadn't had sex in a long time.

  • As you can imagine, what followed was an awkward silence.

  • Until a six-year-old boy attending the barbecue with his parents

  • blurted out that his parents had lots of sex

  • and he could hear them all the time.

  • And then the barbecue continued as if nothing had happened.

  • Now, when I'm not having barbecues,

  • I am researching how people interact with each other

  • and how that transfers to their interactions with technologies,

  • so not all too surprisingly,

  • after this very unique social interaction at the barbecue,

  • I was left wondering why we, the audience,

  • were so greatly ignoring what the adult so openly shared with us that evening.

  • So why the silence and then the laughter at the boy's comment?

  • Well, both of them were breaking a social rule:

  • never talk about sex, money or politics at a dinner table.

  • We assume that an adult knows this rule and sticks to it.

  • So when such expectations are broken,

  • we sanction the offender accordingly -- in our case, with ignorance.

  • When a child, however, breaks such a rule,

  • we attribute this to their naive understanding of our social manners

  • and up to a certain age at least, do not openly sanction them for it.

  • Clearly, there is no official rule book for socially appropriate behaviors

  • or even socially accepted dinner topics.

  • In fact, our social norms are usually unwritten codes of conduct,

  • and they change over time as we as a society change and learn.

  • Less than a year ago, for instance,

  • it was considered impolite not to shake hands

  • when introducing yourself to someone.

  • A few months and the worldwide spread of the coronavirus later

  • and shaking hands may be something to be frowned upon

  • and maybe even a thing of the past.

  • The way we learn these social rules then

  • is mostly by social rewards and social punishments.

  • Now, as social animals,

  • we aim for social approval and want to avoid other's disapproval.

  • So we act in a way that is socially accepted

  • and present ourselves in a socially desirable way to others.

  • So we want to be seen as an individual that is smart, successful,

  • sporty and active, creative, empathic and possibly all that at once.

  • Now, through social media, our strive for social approval,

  • and with it, our need for self-presentation and perfection

  • has skyrocketed.

  • Clearly, there is a flip side to all of this.

  • In any social interaction, we do not only look for others' approval,

  • but we also constantly fear other's disapproval

  • when we cannot live up to their expectations.

  • Just consider an adult with incontinence problems

  • or a drug addiction.

  • If he or she had to talk to a health care professional,

  • what would you expect to find?

  • Or if a soldier returned from combat

  • and had to talk about their fears or problems,

  • do you think they would open up easily?

  • A team of USC researchers examined just that.

  • So they looked at the data from the US Army.

  • Traditionally, soldiers had to be interviewed

  • by a human health care professional when returning from combat

  • to check if everything is OK.

  • Now, interestingly,

  • the researchers found that soldiers hardly reported any problems

  • after their returns.

  • Surely many of them were truly fine,

  • but the researchers also suspected

  • that many soldiers did not dare to share their problems openly.

  • After all, soldiers are trained to be strong and brave individuals

  • that learn not to show any weaknesses.

  • So openly admitting to have health problems,

  • to have trouble sleeping or to have nightmares

  • is not something easy to do for soldiers.

  • The question then ultimately becomes

  • how can we help individuals open up more easily

  • and worry less about the judgment of others?

  • Well, remember what I said earlier.

  • We expect social evaluation in any social interaction.

  • So how about we remove the social from the interaction?

  • This is exactly what the team in the US did.

  • In fact, they developed a virtual interviewer called SimSensei.

  • So SimSensei is a digital avatar that has a humanlike appearance

  • and can interact with clients through natural conversations.

  • Now, when returning from combat,

  • soldiers were now interviewed by the digital avatar

  • instead of that human health care professional.

  • And what happened? Well, once SimSensei was introduced,

  • soldiers reported more health problems,

  • like having nightmares or trouble sleeping.

  • So machines can help remove the social from the equation

  • and help people open up more easily.

  • But careful, not all machines are created equal.

  • Considering the tremendous advancements in technologies like computer graphics

  • or natural language processing,

  • machines have become increasingly humanlike.

  • The question then ultimately becomes,

  • which rules do we apply in these interactions?

  • Do we still apply social rules when we interact with humanlike machines?

  • So do we start to worry about social judgment again?

  • This is exactly what I examine in my research.

  • Together with colleagues, we have developed a series of chatbots.

  • These chatbots were programmed to simulate text-based conversations

  • and they were designed to be either very social and humanlike

  • or very functional and machine-like.

  • So, for instance,

  • our humanlike bots use so-called speed disfluencies

  • and social language cues,

  • like these "ohos", "ahas", "hmms" we humans love to use in our conversations

  • to signal our presence to conversation partners.

  • In contrast, our machine-like bots

  • lacked such social cues and simply kept to the talking points.

  • Since we were interested in how much people would open up

  • in these different conversations,

  • we ask participants a number of questions,

  • which gradually grew more and more personal,

  • up to the point where we would ask participants

  • to share possibly very delicate information about themselves.

  • Now, considering the findings from prior research,

  • such as the one from the US Army before,

  • we expected that people would apply more social rules

  • in their interactions with these humanlike bots

  • and act accordingly.

  • So what did we find?

  • Well, exactly that.

  • So participants interacting with our humanlike bots

  • were more concerned about social evaluation

  • and as a result of this social apprehension,

  • they also gave more socially desirable responses.

  • Let me give you an example.

  • One of the most delicate questions that we asked participants

  • was the number of prior sex partners they had had.

  • When interacting with our humanlike bot,

  • men reported to have significantly more prior sex partners

  • and women reported to have significantly less

  • than those men and women interacting with our mechanistic bot.

  • So what does this all tell us?

  • Well, first, men want to look good by having more prior sex partners

  • and women by having less.

  • Clearly, this already says a lot

  • about what the different sexes consider socially desirable

  • and how our expectations in society still differ across genders.

  • But this opens up a whole new topic

  • that I will better leave for other experts to discuss.

  • Second, and maybe more importantly, from a consumer psychology perspective.

  • People open up more easily when they interact with machines

  • that are apparently just that -- machines.

  • Today, a lot of sweat, money and tears

  • is put into making machines basically indistinguishable from us.

  • Now, this research can show

  • that sometimes letting a machine be a machine is actually a good thing.

  • Which brings me to my third point.

  • These machine interactions have been highly criticized at times.

  • So you may have heard that Siri, Alexa or others

  • make your kids rude or impolite.

  • Hopefully, this research can show you

  • a great upside of these machine interactions.

  • In times of social media and our constant hunt for the nextlike,”

  • machines can give us grownups --

  • help us find that inner child again

  • and give our constant need for self-presentation and perfection

  • a time-out.

  • For once, we do not need to worry

  • if the number of prior sex partners is too high or too low,

  • and instead it is OK to simply be who we are.

  • Ultimately, then, I think that these machines can remind us

  • of a central element of what makes a good conversation partner:

  • being nonjudgmental.

  • so the next time you might encounter

  • a unique social situation like mine at the barbecue,

  • try to be less judgmental

  • when another person openly shares

  • their thoughts, feelings and problems with you.

  • Many machines do this already, and maybe so should we.

  • Thank you very much.

Transcriber:

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Anne Scherer: Why we're more honest with machines than people | TED

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    fx に公開 2021 年 08 月 31 日
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