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Blurring the Boundaries Between Human and Machine: What Makes Chatbots Human(-like) and How Does This Affect User Interaction and Behavior?

Since the beginning of the chatbot hype, there has been a lively discussion about how “human-like”
chatbots should be. To make the interaction more natural and enhance user experience (UX), many
chatbots are given a name, are represented by a human-looking avatar, or are endowed with a
personality in general. However, these human-like or anthropomorphic cues can lead to unrealistic
user expectations that often turn into frustration and annoyance when the chatbot fails. Therefore,

designers, developers, and organizations are often unsure about the “appropriate” level of human-
likeness of their chatbot and its potential effects on user interaction and behavior. To address this

challenge, this talk will present theoretical and practical insights from several years of research on the
anthropomorphic design of chatbots at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT). First, the talk will
provide an overview of the many different human-like or anthropomorphic cues in the design of
chatbots. Second, the underlying psychological mechanisms that lead users to (subconsciously)
respond to these cues when interacting with a chatbot will be explained. Finally, key findings from
several lab and field studies with real chatbots on the impact of these cues on user interaction and
behavior will be presented. This talk will be interesting for everyone who wants to learn more about
the theoretical aspects of human-chatbot interaction or aims to convince users to engage with their
existing chatbot.

Dec 11


30 mins


Ulrich Gnewuch

Ulrich Gnewuch

Researcher, Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT)

Copy of BRN19 Logos for company page- 45

Ulrich Gnewuch is a researcher at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT). His research focuses on how the anthropomorphic design of chatbots and voice assistants influences users’ perceptions and behavior in business interactions (e.g., in customer service or e-commerce). His initial interest in this research topic was sparked by attending the 2nd Chatbot Summit in Berlin in 2017 and listening to the many lively discussions about how “human-like” chatbots should be. Since then, he has conducted many studies in both laboratory and field settings to identify anthropomorphic or human-like cues of chatbots, understand their impact on user behavior (e.g., self-disclosure, decision-making), and provide design recommendations. In his research, he aims to bridge the gap between state-of-the-art chatbot technology and well-established theories from social psychology and interpersonal communication. Together with his colleagues, he founded, a platform to facilitate joint projects and foster a continuous exchange between researchers and practitioners interested in the design of chatbots and voice assistants.


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