Evaluating Levels of Emotional Contagion with an Embodied Conversational Agent

AbstractThis paper presents an embodied conversational agent framework as a controlled environment to test components of empathy. We implement levels of emotional contagion which includes mimicry and affective matching along with necessary communicational capabilities. We further demonstrate an examination of these foundational behaviors in isolation, to better understand the effect of each level on the perception of empathy in a social conversational scenario with a human actor. We report three studies where the agent shows levels of emotional contagion behavior during (1) the listening act in comparison with baseline backchanneling behavior (2) additional verbal response matching simple emotional storyline (3) the verbal response to the human actor performing complex emotional behaviors. Results revealed that both mimicry and affective matching behaviors were perceived as more empathic than the baseline listening behavior, where the difference between these behaviors was only significant when the agent verbally responded to complex emotional behaviors.


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