Van Vugt, H., Bailenson, J.N., Konijn, E., & Hoorn, J. (2010). Effects of facial similarity on user responses to embodied agents. ACM Transactions on Computer Human Interaction, 17 (2), 7:1-27.
We investigated the effects of facial similarity between users and embodied agents under different experimental conditions. Sixty-four undergraduates interacted with two different embodied agents: in one case the agent was designed to look somewhat similar to the user, and in the other case the agent was designed to look dissimilar. We varied between subjects how helpful the agent was for a given task. Results showed that the facial similarity manipulation sometimes affected participants’ responses, even though they did not consciously detect the similarity. Specifically, when the agent was helpful, facial similarity increased participantsi ratings of involvement. However, when exposed to unhelpful agents, male participants had negative responses to the similar-looking agent compared to the dissimilar one. These results suggest that using facially similar embodied agents has a potential large downside if that embodied agent is perceived to be unhelpful.