The design of motivational agents and avatars

Development Article

Abstract

While the addition of an anthropomorphic interface agent to a learning system generally has little direct impact on learning, it potentially has a huge impact on learner motivation. As such agents become increasingly ubiquitous on the Internet, in virtual worlds, and as interfaces for learning and gaming systems, it is important to design them to optimally impact motivation. The focus of this paper is on the design of agents and avatars (one’s self-representation as a visual agent) for enhancing motivational and affective outcomes, such as improving self-efficacy, engagement and satisfaction, moderating frustration, and/or improving stereotypes. Together with motivational messages and dialogue (which are not discussed here), the agent’s appearance is the most important design feature as it dictates the learner’s perception of the agent as a virtual social model, in the Bandurian sense. The message delivery, through a human-like voice with appropriate and relevant emotional expressions, is also a key motivational design feature. More research is needed to determine the specifics with respect to the ideal agent voice and the role of other nonverbal communication (e.g., deictic gestures) that may contribute to the agent’s role as an embodied motivator, particularly in the long-term.

Keywords

Interface agents Pedagogical agents Avatars Motivation Persuasion Attitudes Self-efficacy 

References

  1. Arroyo, I., Cooper, D. G., Burleson, W., Woolf, B. P., Muldner, K., & Christopherson, R. (2009). Emotion sensors go to school. In V. Dimitrova, R. Mizoguchi, B. DuBoulay & A. Graesser (Eds.), Artificial intelligence in education—Building learning systems that care: From knowledge representation to affective modelling (Vol. 200, pp. 17–24). Amsterdam: IOS Press.Google Scholar
  2. Atkinson, R. K. (2002). Optimizing learning from examples using animated pedagogical agents. Journal of Educational Psychology, 94, 416–427.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Atkinson, R. K., Mayer, R. E., & Merrill, M. M. (2005). Fostering social agency in multimedia learning: Examining the impact of an animated agent’s voice. Contemporary Educational Psychology, 30, 117–139.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Bailenson, J. N., Blascovich, J., & Guadagno, R. E. (2008). Self-representations in immersive virtual environments. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 38(11), 2673–2690.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Bandura, A. (1997). Self-efficacy: The exercise of control. New York, NY: W. H. Freeman.Google Scholar
  6. Baylor, A. L. (2007). Pedagogical agents as a social interface. Educational Technology, 47(1), 11–14.Google Scholar
  7. Baylor, A. L. (2009). Promoting motivation with virtual agents and avatars: Role of visual presence and appearance. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B—Biological Sciences, 364(1535), 3559–3565.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Baylor, A. L., & Ebbers, S. J. (2003). Evidence that multiple agents facilitate greater learning. In U. Hoppe, M. F. Verdejo, & J. Kay (Eds.), Artificial intelligence in education: Shaping the future of learning through intelligent technologies (pp. 377–379). Amsterdam: IOS Press.Google Scholar
  9. Baylor, A. L., & Kim, Y. (2003). The role of gender and ethnicity in pedagogical agent perception. In G. Richards (Ed.), Proceedings of world conference on E-learning in corporate, government, healthcare, & higher education 2003 (pp. 1503–1506). Chesapeake, VA: AACE.Google Scholar
  10. Baylor, A. L., & Kim, Y. (2004). Pedagogical agent design: The impact of agent realism, gender, ethnicity, and instructional role. In J. Lester et al. (Eds.), Lecture notes in computer science: Intelligent tutoring systems (Vol. 3220, pp. 592–603). Berlin/Heidelberg: Springer.Google Scholar
  11. Baylor, A. L., & Kim, Y. (2005). Simulating instructional roles through pedagogical agents. International Journal of Artificial Intelligence in Education, 15(1), 95–115.Google Scholar
  12. Baylor, A. L., & Kim, S. (2009). Designing nonverbal communication for pedagogical agents: When less is more. Computers in Human Behavior, 25(2), 450–457.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Baylor, A. L., & Plant, E. A. (2005). Pedagogical agents as social models for engineering: The influence of appearance on female choice. In C.-K. Looi, G. McCalla, B. Bredeweg, & J. Breuker (Eds.), Artificial intelligence in education: Supporting learning through intelligent and socially informed technology (Vol. 125, pp. 65–72). Bristol: IOS Press.Google Scholar
  14. Baylor, A. L., Ryu, J., & Shen, E. (2003). The effects of pedagogical agent voice and animation on learning, motivation and perceived persona. Proceedings of world conference on educational multimedia, hypermedia and telecommunications, Honolulu, Hawaii (pp. 452–458). Norfolk, VA: AACE.Google Scholar
  15. Bem, D. J. (1967). Self-perception: An alternative interpretation of cognitive dissonance phenomena. Psychological Review, 74, 183–200.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Bickmore, T., Schulman, D., & Yin, L. X. (2009). Engagement vs. deceit: Virtual humans with human autobiographies. In Z. Ruttkay, M. Kipp, A. Nijholt & H. H. Vilhjalmsson (Eds.), Proceedings of intelligent virtual agents (Vol. 5773, pp. 6–19). Amsterdam: Springer.Google Scholar
  17. Ebbers, S. J. (2007). The impact of social model agent type (coping, mastery) and social interaction type (vicarious, direct) on learner motivation, attitudes, social comparisons, affect and learning performance (Vol. Ph.D). Tallahassee, FL: Florida State University.Google Scholar
  18. Ersner-Hershfield, H., Bailenson, J., & Carstensen, L. L. (2008). A vivid future self: Immersive virtual reality enhances retirement saving. Paper presented at the Association for Psychological Science. Annual Convention. Chicago, IL.Google Scholar
  19. Fox, J., & Bailenson, J. N. (2009). Virtual self-modeling: The effects of vicarious reinforcement and identification on exercise behaviors. Media Psychology, 12(1), 1–25.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Gratch, J., Wang, N., Gerten, J., Fast, E., & Duffy, R. (2007). Creating rapport with virtual agents. In Lecture notes in artificial intelligence: Proceedings of international conference on intelligent virtual agents. Paris: Springer.Google Scholar
  21. Guadagno, R. E., Blascovich, J., Bailenson, J. N., & McCall, C. (2007). Virtual humans and persuasion: The effects of agency and behavioral realism. Media Psychology, 10(1), 1–22.Google Scholar
  22. Johnson, W. L., Rickel, J. W., & Lester, J. C. (2000). Animated pedagogical agents: Face-to-face interaction in interactive learning environments. International Journal of Artificial Intelligence in Education, 11, 47–78.Google Scholar
  23. Kim, Y., & Baylor, A. L. (2006). Pedagogical agents as learning companions: The role of agent competency and type of interaction. ETR&D—Educational Technology Research and Development, 54(3), 223–243.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Kim, Y., & Baylor, A. L. (2007). Pedagogical agents as social models to influence learner attitudes. Educational Technology, 47(1), 23–28.Google Scholar
  25. Kim, Y., Baylor, A. L., & Shen, E. (2007). Pedagogical agents as learning companions: The impact of agent emotion and gender. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, 23(3), 220–234.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Lee, J.-E. R., Nass, C., Brave, S., Morishima, Y., Nakajima, H., & Yamada, R. (2007). The case for caring co-learners: The effects of a computer-mediated co-learner agent on trust and learning. Journal of Communication, 57(2), 183–204.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Lester, J. C., Towns, S. G., Callaway, C. B., Voerman, J. L., & FitzGerald, P. J. (2000). Deictic and emotive communication in animated pedagogical agents. In J. Sullivant (Ed.), Embodied conversational agents. Boston, MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  28. Mayer, R. E., & Moreno, R. (1998). A split-attention effect in multimedia learning: Evidence for dual processing systems in working memory. Journal of Educational Psychology, 90, 312–320.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Moreno, R., & Flowerday, T. (2006). Students’ choice of animated pedagogical agents in science learning: A test of the similarity-attraction hypothesis on gender and ethnicity. Contemporary Educational Psychology, 31(2), 186–207.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Moreno, R., & Mayer, R. E. (1999). Cognitive principles of multimedia learning: The role of modality and contiguity effects. Journal of Educational Psychology, 91, 358–368.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Nass, C., & Brave, S. (2005). Wired for speech: How voice activates and advances the human–computer relationship. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  32. Nass, C., & Steuer, J. (1993). Anthropomorphism, agency, and thopoeia: Computers as social actors. Human Communication Research, 19(4), 504–527.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Niedenthal, P. M. (2007). Embodying emotion. Science, 316(5827), 1002–1005.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Plant, E. A., Baylor, A. L., Doerr, C. E., & Rosenberg-Kima, R. B. (2009). Changing middle-school students’ attitudes and performance regarding engineering with computer-based social models. Computers and Education, 53(2), 209–215.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Reeves, B., & Nass, C. (1996). The media equation. Stanford, CA: CSLI Publications.Google Scholar
  36. Rosenberg-Kima, R. B., Baylor, A. L., Plant, E. A., & Doerr, C. E. (2007). The importance of interface agent visual presence: Voice alone is less effective in impacting young women’s attitudes toward engineering. Paper presented at the Persuasive 2007, Stanford, CA.Google Scholar
  37. Rosenberg-Kima, R. B., Baylor, A. L., Plant, E. A., & Doerr, C. E. (2008). Interface agents as social models for female students: The effects of agent visual presence and appearance on female students’ attitudes and beliefs. Computers in Human Behavior, 24(6), 2741–2756.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Rosenberg-Kima, R. B., Plant, E. A., Doerr, C. E., & Baylor, A. L. (2010). The influence of computer-based model’s race and gender on female students’ attitudes and beliefs towards engineering. Journal of Engineering Education, 99(1), 35–44.Google Scholar
  39. Ryu, J., & Baylor, A. L. (2005). The psychometric structure of pedagogical agent persona. Technology, Instruction, Cognition and Learning (TICL), 2(4), 291–315.Google Scholar
  40. Schunk, D. H. (1981). Modeling and attributional effects on children’s achievement: A self-efficacy analysis. Journal of Educational Psychology, 73, 93–105.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Schunk, D. H., Hanson, A. R., & Cox, P. D. (1987). Peer model attributes and children’s achievement behaviors. Journal of Educational Psychology, 79, 54–61.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Short, J., Williams, E., & Christie, B. (1976). The social psychology of telecommunications. London: Wiley.Google Scholar
  43. Yee, N., & Bailenson, J. N. (2007). The Proteus effect: The effect of transformed self-representation on behavior. Human Communication Research, 33(3), 271–290.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Yee, N., Bailenson, J. N., & Ducheneaut, N. (2009). The Proteus effect implications of transformed digital self-representation on online and offline behavior. Communication Research, 36(2), 285–312.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Association for Educational Communications and Technology 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Amy Baylor Consulting, LLCRestonUSA

Personalised recommendations