Social Support Strategies for Embodied Conversational Agents

  • Janneke M. van der ZwaanEmail author
  • Virginia Dignum
  • Catholijn M. Jonker
Part of the Lecture Notes in Computer Science book series (LNCS, volume 8750)


There is a growing interest in employing conversational agents as companions and coaches. An important skill for this type of agents is providing social support to users after they have an experienced upsetting event. In order to provide social support, conversational agents need to be empathic to the user. In this paper, we specify strategies for conversational agents to provide social support to users. The main contribution of this paper is a mapping between OCC emotion types and support types that can be used to generate emotional behavior in a largely domain-independent way.


Social Support Facial Expression Nonverbal Behavior Emotional Expressiveness Conversational Agent 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



This work is funded by the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO) under the Responsible Innovation (RI) program via the project ‘Empowering and Protecting Children and Adolescents Against Cyberbullying’.


  1. 1.
    Burleson, B., Goldsmith, D.: How the comforting process works: alleviating emotional distress through conversationally induced reappraisals. In: Andersen, P., Guerrero, L. (eds.) Handbook of Communication and Emotion: Research, Theory, Applications, and Contexts, pp. 245–280. Academic Press, Orlando (1998)Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Braithwaite, D., Waldron, V., Finn, J.: Communication of social support in computer-mediated groups for people with disabilities. Health Commun. 11(2), 123–151 (1999)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. 3.
    Thoits, P.: Social support as coping assistance. J. Consult. Clin. Psychol. 54(4), 416–423 (1986)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. 4.
    de Waal, F.: Putting the altruism back into altruism: the evolution of empathy. Annu. Rev. Psychol. 59, 279–300 (2008)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. 5.
    Li, Q.: New bottle but old wine: a research of cyberbullying in schools. Comput. Hum. Behav. 23(4), 1777–1791 (2007)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. 6.
    van der Zwaan, J.M., Dignum, V., Jonker, C.M.: Simulating peer support for victims of cyberbullying. In: Proceedings of the 22st Benelux Conference on Artificial Intelligence (BNAIC 2010) (2010)Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    van der Zwaan, J.M., Dignum, V., Jonker, C.M.: A conversation model enabling intelligent agents to give emotional support. In: Ding, W., Jiang, H., Ali, M., Li, M. (eds.) Modern Advances in Intelligent Systems and Tools. SCI, vol. 431, pp. 47–52. Springer, Heidelberg (2012)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. 8.
    Ortony, A., Clore, G., Collins, A.: The Cognitive Structure of Emotions. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge (1988)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. 9.
    Hone, K.: Empathic agents to reduce user frustration: The effects of varying agent characteristics. Interact. Comput. 18(2), 227–245 (2006)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. 10.
    Kopp, S., Gesellensetter, L., Krämer, N.C., Wachsmuth, I.: A conversational agent as museum guide – design and evaluation of a real-world application. In: Panayiotopoulos, T., Gratch, J., Aylett, R.S., Ballin, D., Olivier, P., Rist, T. (eds.) IVA 2005. LNCS (LNAI), vol. 3661, pp. 329–343. Springer, Heidelberg (2005)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. 11.
    Pelachaud, C., Carofiglio, V., De Carolis, B., de Rosis, F., Poggi, I.: Embodied contextual agent in information delivering application. In: Proceedings of the First International Joint Conference on Autonomous Agents and Multiagent Systems: Part 2, pp. 758–765. ACM (2002)Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    D’Mello, S., Lehman, B., Sullins, J., Daigle, R., Combs, R., Vogt, K., Perkins, L., Graesser, A.: A time for emoting: when affect-sensitivity is and isn’t effective at promoting deep learning. In: Aleven, V., Kay, J., Mostow, J. (eds.) ITS 2010, Part I. LNCS, vol. 6094, pp. 245–254. Springer, Heidelberg (2010)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. 13.
    Lee, T.Y., Chang, C.W., Chen, G.D.: Building an interactive caring agent for students in computer-based learning environments. In: Proceedings of the 7th IEEE International Conference on Advanced Learning Technologies, ICALT 2007, pp. 300–304 (2007)Google Scholar
  14. 14.
    Zakharov, K., Mitrovic, A., Johnston, L.: Towards emotionally-intelligent pedagogical agents. In: Woolf, B.P., Aïmeur, E., Nkambou, R., Lajoie, S. (eds.) ITS 2008. LNCS, vol. 5091, pp. 19–28. Springer, Heidelberg (2008)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. 15.
    Cavazza, M., et al.: Persuasive dialogue based on a narrative theory: an ECA implementation. In: Ploug, T., Hasle, P., Oinas-Kukkonen, H. (eds.) PERSUASIVE 2010. LNCS, vol. 6137, pp. 250–261. Springer, Heidelberg (2010)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. 16.
    Smith, C., et al.: Interaction strategies for an affective conversational agent. In: Safonova, A. (ed.) IVA 2010. LNCS(LNAI), vol. 6356, pp. 301–314. Springer, Heidelberg (2010)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. 17.
    Schneider, K.: Small Talk: Analyzing Phatic Discourse. Hitzeroth, Marburg (1988)Google Scholar
  18. 18.
    Fukkink, R.: Peer counseling in an online chat service: a content analysis of social support. Cyberpsychology Behav. Soc. Netw. 14(4), 247–251 (2011)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. 19.
    de Beyn, A.: In gesprek met kinderen:de methodiek van de kindertelefoon. SWP, Amsterdam (2003)Google Scholar
  20. 20.
    Dias, J., Paiva, A.C.R.: Feeling and reasoning: a computational model for emotional characters. In: Bento, C., Cardoso, A., Dias, G. (eds.) EPIA 2005. LNCS (LNAI), vol. 3808, pp. 127–140. Springer, Heidelberg (2005)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. 21.
    Searle, J.R.: A taxonomy of illocutionary acts. In: Gunderson, K. (ed.) Language, Mind, and Knowledge. University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis (1975)Google Scholar
  22. 22.
    Wilhelm, A.: Confirmed: microsoft to retire its messenger im service in q1 2013, moving 100m+ users to skype in single act (2012). Accessed 3 June 2013
  23. 23.
    Vergunst, N.: BDI-based Generation of Robust Task-Oriented Dialogues. Ph.D. Thesis, Utrecht University (2011)Google Scholar
  24. 24.
    van der Zwaan, J.M., Dignum, V., Jonker, C.M.: The effect of variations in emotional expressiveness on social support. In: Conci, M., Dignum, V., Funk, M., Heylen, D. (eds.) Proceedings of the 2013 Workshop on Computers as Social Actors, pp. 9–20 (2014)Google Scholar
  25. 25.
    van der Zwaan, J.M., Dignum, V., Jonker, C.M.: A qualitative evaluation of social support by an empathic agent. In: Aylett, R., Krenn, B., Pelachaud, C., Shimodaira, H. (eds.) IVA 2013. LNCS, vol. 8108, pp. 358–367. Springer, Heidelberg (2013)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. 26.
    van der Zwaan, J.M.: An Empathic Virtual Buddy for Social Support. Ph.D. Thesis, Delft University of Technology (2014)Google Scholar
  27. 27.
    Adam, C.: The Emotions: From Psychological Theories to Logical Formalization and Implementation in a BDI Agent. Ph.D. Thesis (2007)Google Scholar
  28. 28.
    Gratch, J., Marsella, S.: Lessons from emotion psychology for the design of lifelike characters. Appl. Artif. Intell. 19(3), 215–234 (2005)CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Janneke M. van der Zwaan
    • 1
    Email author
  • Virginia Dignum
    • 1
  • Catholijn M. Jonker
    • 1
  1. 1.Delft University of TechnologyDelftThe Netherlands

Personalised recommendations