The complex relationship between empathy, engagement and boredom

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Authors: Witchel, H.J., Santos, C.P., Ackah, J.K., Tee, J., Chockalingam, N. and Westling, C.E.I.

Journal: ACM International Conference Proceeding Series

Volume: 06-08-September-2016

ISBN: 9781450342445

DOI: 10.1145/2970930.2970935

In human computer interactions - especially gaming - the role of empathy has been mooted as a necessary prerequisite for higher levels of engagement and immersion. More recently other forms of engagement, including intellectual/cognitive engagement, have been proposed. In this study we present a carefully controlled dataset of human-computer interactions with a wide range of stimuli that ranged from highly engaging to boring to test these two theories. Analyzing 844 response sets to visual analogue scales (VAS) for empathy, interest, boredom, and engagement, we found that high empathy was sufficient for high engagement but is not necessary, whilst the converse was not true. We also found that empathy and boredom were incompatible with each other, but low levels of either were permissive rather than causal to the other. We conclude that there is no monotonic relationship between increasing empathy and engagement; either empathy is a sufficient (but not necessary) cause of engagement, or engagement is a necessary precursor to high empathy.

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