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Ergonomics. 2012;55(9):1059-72. doi: 10.1080/00140139.2012.691554. Epub 2012 Jul 17.

Decision support aids with anthropomorphic characteristics influence trust and performance in younger and older adults.

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Department of Psychology, Clemson University, Clemson, SC, USA.


This study examined the use of deliberately anthropomorphic automation on younger and older adults' trust, dependence and performance on a diabetes decision-making task. Research with anthropomorphic interface agents has shown mixed effects in judgments of preferences but has rarely examined effects on performance. Meanwhile, research in automation has shown some forms of anthropomorphism (e.g. etiquette) have effects on trust and dependence on automation. Participants answered diabetes questions with no-aid, a non-anthropomorphic aid or an anthropomorphised aid. Trust and dependence in the aid was measured. A minimally anthropomorphic aide primarily affected younger adults' trust in the aid. Dependence, however, for both age groups was influenced by the anthropomorphic aid. Automation that deliberately embodies person-like characteristics can influence trust and dependence on reasonably reliable automation. However, further research is necessary to better understand the specific aspects of the aid that affect different age groups. Automation that embodies human-like characteristics may be useful in situations where there is under-utilisation of reasonably reliable aids by enhancing trust and dependence in that aid. Practitioner Summary: The design of decision-support aids on consumer devices (e.g. smartphones) may influence the level of trust that users place in that system and their amount of use. This study is the first step in articulating how the design of aids may influence user's trust and use of such systems.

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