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How an avatar can easily persuade you

People are perceived as more honest and likeable if they subtly mimic the body language of the person they’re speaking with. It appears this same phenomenon works both in the real and virtual worlds.

 

The results of the study below indicate that subjects liked the mimicking agent more than the recorded agent, rating the former more friendly, interesting, honest and persuasive. They also paid better attention to the parroting presenter, looking away less often. Most significantly, they were more likely to come around to the mimicking agent’s way of thinking on the issue of mandatory ID.

 

Not only can computers take advantage of our psychological quirks but they can do it more effectively than humans.

 

Abstract:

Previous research demonstrated social influence resulting from mimicry (the chameleon effect); a confederate who mimicked participants was more highly regarded than a confederate who did not, despite the fact that participants did not explicitly notice the mimicry. In the current study, participants interacted with an embodied artificial intelligence agent in immersive virtual reality. The agent either mimicked a participant’s head movements at a 4-s delay or utilized prerecorded movements of another participant as it verbally presented an argument. Mimicking agents were more persuasive and received more positive trait ratings than nonmimickers, despite participants’ inability to explicitly detect the mimicry. These data are uniquely powerful because they demonstrate the ability to use automatic, indiscriminate mimicking (i.e., a computer algorithm blindly applied to all movements) to gain social influence. Furthermore, this is the first study to demonstrate social influence effects with a nonhuman, nonverbal mimicker.

Full Study