Who Do You Prefer? The Effect of Age, Gender and Role on Users’ First Impressions of Embodied Conversational Agents in eHealth

Silke ter Stal*, Monique Tabak, Harm op den Akker, Tessa Beinema, Hermie Hermens

*Corresponding author for this work

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Embodied conversational agents may be used to engage users in adopting eHealth applications. The aim of this research is to investigate which design features establish a positive first impression of an agent in this context. A set of eight static agent images, different in age, gender and role, were subjected to testing in an online questionnaire. Respondents (n = 155) selected their preferred design and rated the characteristics–friendliness, expertise, reliability, involvement and authority–and the likeliness of following the agent’s advice for all designs. In addition, focus groups (n = 13) were conducted for detailed understandings supporting these impressions. Our results show that, for both a general and elderly population, (1) people seem to prefer images of young, female agents over old, male agents, (2) the (a) age, (b) gender and (c) role of the agent image affect the perception of the agent’s characteristics and the likeliness of following the agent’s advice, and that (3) both the general and elderly population prefer an agent image that is similar in (a) age and (b) gender. A next step would be to investigate how the characteristics of the agent designs are perceived after interaction with the agent.

Original languageEnglish
JournalInternational journal of human-computer interaction
Publication statusPublished - 15 Dec 2019


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