Using human physiology to evaluate subtle expressivity of a virtual quizmaster in a mathematical game

Helmut Prendinger*, Junichiro Mori, Mitsuru Ishizuka

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

116 Citations (Scopus)


The aim of the experimental study described in this article is to investigate the effect of a life-like character with subtle expressivity on the affective state of users. The character acts as a quizmaster in the context of a mathematical game. This application was chosen as a simple, and for the sake of the experiment, highly controllable, instance of human-computer interfaces and software. Subtle expressivity refers to the character's affective response to the user's performance by emulating multimodal human-human communicative behavior such as different body gestures and varying linguistic style. The impact of em-pathic behavior, which is a special form of affective response, is examined by deliberately frustrating the user during the game progress. There are two novel aspects in this investigation. First, we employ an animated interface agent to address the affective state of users rather than a text-based interface, which has been used in related research. Second, while previous empirical studies rely on questionnaires to evaluate the effect of life-like characters, we utilize physiological information of users (in addition to questionnaire data) in order to precisely associate the occurrence of interface events with users' autonomic nervous system activity. The results of our study indicate that empathic character response can significantly decrease user stress and that affective behavior may have a positive effect on users' perception of the difficulty of a task.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)231-245
Number of pages15
JournalInternational Journal of Human Computer Studies
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2005 Feb
Externally publishedYes


  • Affective behavior
  • Empathy
  • Evaluation
  • Life-like characters
  • Physiological user information

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Artificial Intelligence
  • Human-Computer Interaction
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology


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