The Importance of Similarity in Empathic Interaction

The Importance of Similarity in Empathic Interaction

Lynne Hall (University of Sunderland, UK) and Sarah Woods (University of Hertfordshire, UK)
Copyright: © 2006 |Pages: 8
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-59140-562-7.ch047
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Empathy has been defined as, “An observer reacting emotionally because he perceives that another is experiencing or about to experience an emotion” (Stotland, Mathews, Sherman, Hannson, & Richardson, 1978). Synthetic characters (computer generated semi-autonomous agents corporeally embodied using multimedia and/or robotics, see Figure 1) are becoming increasingly widespread as a way to establish empathic interaction between users and computers. For example, Feelix, a simple humanoid LEGO robot, is able to display different emotions through facial expressions in response to physical contact. Similarly, Kismet was designed to be a sociable robot able to engage and interact with humans using different emotions and facial expressions. Carmen’s Bright Ideas is an interactive multimedia computer program to teach a problem-solving methodology and uses the notion of empathic interactions. Research suggests that synthetic characters have particular relevance to domains with flexible and emergent tasks where empathy is crucial to the goals of the system (Marsella, Johnson, & LaBore, 2003). Using empathic interaction maintains and builds user emotional involvement to create a coherent cognitive and emotional experience. This results in the development of empathic relations between the user and the synthetic character, meaning that the user perceives and models the emotion of the agent experiencing an appropriate emotion as a consequence

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