Negative Feedback In Your Face: Examining the Effects of Proxemics and Gender on Learning

Conference paper
Part of the Lecture Notes in Computer Science book series (LNCS, volume 10498)


While applications of virtual agents in training and pedagogy have largely concentrated on positive valenced environments and interactions, human-human interactions certainly also involve a fair share of negativity that is worth exploring in virtual environments. Further, in natural human interaction as well as in virtual spaces, physical actions arguably account for a great deal of variance in our representations of social concepts (e.g., emotions, attitudes). Proxemics, specifically, is a physical cue that can elicit varying perceptions of a social interaction. In the current paper, we explore the combined and individual effects of proxemic distance and gender in a specifically negative feedback educational context. We pursue this with a 2 (Proxemic Distance) \(\times \) 2 (Virtual Instructor Gender) between subject design, where participants actively engage in a learning task with a virtual instructor that provides harsh, negative feedback. While this study demonstrates some anticipated negative reactions to negative feedback from a close distance, such as external attribution of failure, we also observe some unexpected positive outcomes to this negative feedback. Specifically, negative feedback from a close distance has raises positive affect and effort, particularly among male participants interacting with a male virtual professor. Objective measures (head movement data) corroborate these same-gender effects as participants demonstrate more engagement when interacting with a virtual professor of their same gender. The results of the present study have broad implications for the design of intelligent virtual agents for pedagogy and mental health outcomes.


Virtual instructor Attribution theory Proxemics Affect 


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of Southern CaliforniaLos AngelesUSA
  2. 2.Northeastern UniversityBostonUSA
  3. 3.University Duisburg-EssenDuisburgGermany

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