Experience design: Video without faces increases engagement but not empathy

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

Journal: ACM International Conference Proceeding Series

Volume: 06-08-September-2016

ISBN: 9781450342445

DOI: 10.1145/2970930.2970936

Counter to prior claims that empathy is required for higher levels of engagement in human-computer interaction, our team has previously found that, in an analysis of 844 stimulus presentations, empathy is sufficient for high engagement, but is not necessary. Here, we ran a carefully controlled study of human-computer interactions with musical stimuli - with and without visuals, and with and without recognizable people - to directly test whether we could design an engaging stimulus that did not elicit empathy, by avoiding human faces or personal interaction. We measured subjective responses by visual analogue scale and found that the faceless stimulus was as engaging as the face-containing stimulus, but much less empathy-provoking. Therefore, we propose that empathy and engagement be considered independently during interaction design, because they are not monotonically related.

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