The effects of simulating human conversational style in a computer-based interview

D.R. Peiris, P. Gregor, N. Alm

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    26 Citations (Scopus)


    A computer interview involves a program asking questions of the user, who responds by providing answers directly to the computer. Using a computer interview has been shown to be an effective method of eliciting information, and particularly personal information which many people find difficult to discuss face to face. While the simulation of some of the characteristics of human-human communication seems to enhance the dialogue, it appears to be the absence of others, such as being non-judgmental, unshockable, completely consistent, and unendingly patient, that gives computer interviewing its particular effectiveness. The work reported in this paper investigated the effect of simulating in a computer interview two techniques which good human interviewers use: empathy and grouping questions. Thirty nine interviewees answered 40 questions on a computer, in combinations of human-like or computer-like question styles, and presented in either a logical or a random order. They found the use of the human interviewer technique in the wording of questions made the computer interviews more interesting and enjoyable, than when blunt, direct questioning was used, and they answered honestly more often to the human-like style. This investigation has shown that a computer interview can be made more effective by simulating the human interviewer technique of empathizing with interviewees and softening those questions which are of a sensitive nature. It seems therefore that it is the combination of the right non-human characteristics with the fight human characteristics that can produce a successful computer interview. The question for further research is which are the right characteristics in each case, given the purpose of the interview.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)635-650
    Number of pages16
    JournalInteracting with Computers
    Issue number6
    Publication statusPublished - Jul 2000


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