Thesis Open Access

Agents Sharing Secrets Self-Disclosure in Long-Term Child-Avatar Interaction

Burger, Franziska

A key challenge in developing companion agents for children is keeping them interested after novelty effects wear off. Self-Determination Theory posits that motivation
is sustained if the human feels related to the agent. According to Social Penetration
Theory, such a bond can be welded through the reciprocal disclosure of information
about the self. As a result of these considerations, we developed a disclosure dialog module to study the self-disclosing behavior of children in response to that of
a virtual agent. The module was integrated into a mobile application with avatar
presence for diabetic children and subsequently used by 11 children in an exploratory
field study over the course of approximately two weeks at home. It was found that
the relative amount of disclosures that children made to the avatar was an indicator
for the relatedness children felt towards the agent at the end of the study. Girls
were significantly more likely to disclose and children preferred to reciprocate avatar
disclosures of lower intimacy. No relationship was found between the intimacy level
of avatar disclosures and child disclosures. Particularly the last finding contradicts
prior child-peer interaction research and should therefore be further examined in
confirmatory research.

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